One of my favorite plant stories is about ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’ sea holly (Eryngium giganteum). This perennial made its way into popularity with the help of an accomplished English gardener named Ellen Wilmott. As the story goes Ellen Wilmott always carried seeds from her prized sea holly and when she visited friends she spread them in the flowerbeds. Soon, a reminder of her visit would sprout and people started calling the flower ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’. This is an excellent flower for those who enjoy flower arranging, whether it is with fresh or dried flowers. My sea holly dries beautifully and maintains its silvery glow. The flower spikes emerge from a basal cluster of leaves, lying flat against the ground. These spikes will reach 24" – 28" and require caging to keep them up where you can enjoy them.
Sea holly is generally seen on sandy dunes and resembles a low bushy thistle. Its foliage is a quiet steel blue and the terminal, spiky flowers are the same color. Most sea hollies thrive in well-drained, sandy soil that is not particularly fertile. However, the one I grow (Eryngium x zabelii), does very well in my heavy clay-loam soil. This plant will reseed itself in the garden.