15 June 2009
This Giant Canary Isles Bugloss (Echium pinanna) sowed itself right next to the path and growing to almost block it has been an irritating bristle monster to any exposed skin brushing past. They don't sting but the bristles can break off in the skin but it was the only one to have reached flowering size so I couldn't bear to dig it out and had expected the very cold winter to have nipped it in the bud.
Easily grown from seed they grow in the first year an enormous rosette of rough leaves on a thick woody stem. In their second, or third year, once they have stored enough energy and as the days begin to lengthen they rapidly grow an enormous flowering spike - the speed of growth is amazing, shooting up over two metres in two months - setting thousands of seeds before dying. They are not very hardy and the soft early growth coincides with the coldest temperatures of winter and sometimes they just don't make it through. But when they succeed and feeding bumblebees spiral up the column of a thousand pale blue flowers they are lovely.
But not lovely enough to hug bare-chested - that would be very unpleasant.