A Plant That Thrives on Crummy Soil

Submitted a year ago
Created by
Henry Homeyer

There is a place for plant abuse

I have loved Sea Holly (Eryngium spp.) since I first saw it in bloom in a hot, dry, inhospitable place long ago. It had an other-worldly blue-gray sheen, spiky leaves and was loaded with prickly flowers that reminded me of little blue pineapples.  

Sea Holly, Eryngium planum 'Blue Hobbit'

But Eryngium (pronounce this Er-In-Gee-Um) was not to be mine. Yes, I bought it, I planted it, I admired it for a season, but it never returned for a second show in year two. Why not? Even though the tag told me it wanted dry, lean soil, well-drained soil, I can’t help myself. I wanted it to do well, so I gave it plenty of compost. Gong!

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I buy compost from Mak’s Trucking in Meriden, NH. It is fluffy and light, dark in color, weed-free and drains well. I buy in by the 3-yard dump truck and pretty much everything loves it. Not Sea Holly.

So after 2 failed attempts, I stepped up for a third at-bat. I dug a hole 18 inches wide and over a foot deep. Then I went to the driveway extension where I park my seldom-used truck. The soil is the worst you can imagine. Sandy, rocky, dry and dusty. I filled up a 5-gallon pail. I filled the hole in the garden with it, and planted my Sea Holly.

'Blue Hobbit' Sea Holly loves crummy soil

This spring I was delighted to see the Sea Holly up and thriving. The species I planted is Eryngium planum, a variety called ‘Blue Hobbit’, and it is blooming now. As the variety suggests, it is a short variety. I bought it at E.C. Brown’s Nursery inThetford, VT. I will look for the taller, more common species, Eryngium amethystinum, which grows to 2 feet tall. After all, there is plenty more driveway I can dig up!

 Want help in your garden? I make house calls - consultations - to help you plan and improve your gardens. Call me at 603-543-1307 or e-mail me at henry.homeyer@comcast.net 

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