The most elaborately formed flowers belong to the umbels and none more so than Eryngium giganteum, commonly known as Miss Willmott’s Ghost. The story goes that the Edwardian plantswoman and gardener Ellen Willmott surreptitiously introduced this Sea Holly, one of her favourite plants, to others by sprinkling the seed in the gardens she visited, but the name could equally apply to the plant's ghostly appearance, with its ruff of large, prickly, steely-grey bracts that shine silver in the sun. The heart-shaped foliage is also attractive and can be shown off to best effect planted in gravel or shale gardens. As the summer moves to its later stages, their jagged outlines and colouring are a good antidote to the mounds and cushions of more vibrantly coloured perennials.
Green in bud, the whole plant reaches its peak in a blaze of silver in late summer,the architectural veined flower heads turning pale buff as they dry. The flowers are loved by insects, including butterflies, and once they are over the plant decays beautifully, holding its structure throughout the winter. The plant will reward you with a glamorous late-summer display to set against grasses and other perennials, with which they associate particularly well. Miss Willmott’s Ghost is also perfect for use in dried flower arrangements.
Eryngium giganteum "Miss Willmott's Ghost" was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993.
Although you can cut back flower stems after flowering the seed heads are a very attractive feature so are usually left over winter. Take care since the plant resents root disturbance. Use in Coastal or Gravel Gardens, Informal Gardens, Flower Arranging, Borders and Beds, Wildlife Gardens to attract Bees and Butterflies. Beloved of flower arrangers for their striking foliage and flower heads.