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Echium fastuosum (Pride of Madeira)

An exotic shrub. That should be an oxymoron. How could something as exotic and beautiful as this be described as something as dull as ‘a shrub’? This can. No alternative. It’s woody and the trunk and branches tend to create the most wonderful shapes under its canopy of floppy glaucous leaves and in early spring starts producing its crowd of perpendicular electric blue flower spikes. Fully out in April. The plant might reach 6ft or more (still doesn’t qualify as a tree) and 6ft across and the flowers about 1ft tall. If you have a garden mild enough for this (within 200 metres of the beach or Central London), one of its many engaging traits is its tendency to produce the flowers even in the depths of winter. A harbinger of spring, a nice reminder that winter won’t last forever. It’s just before Christmas as I write and the plants at the nursery (in the unheated greenhouse) are already making it obvious where they’re going to flower.

It needs plenty of light, good ventilation and a reasonably well drained soil. If you can give it winter protection (a shed or greenhouse), try it in a pot but make it as big as you can manage. They grow quite fast but don’t live particular long (10 years?). A roof garden in Central London… The main one pictured is in Linda’s garden in Felpham – 100 yards from the beach. Linda is our Niwaki expert.

For information and ideas on winter protection go to 64. Wrapping for Winter in the Glossary of Terms

Propagated by us from seed.

N.B. When clipping several plants with the same tool, have a bucket containing a 5% bleach solution and swish your blades around for 30 seconds between plants to sterilise them. This will help avoid the chance of cross contamination of disease.

As with all woody plants, plant high, exposing as much of the taper at the base of the trunk as possible. Allowing soil to accumulate round the base of a tree can be fatal. Keep very well watered when first planted.

Hardiness traffic light green

Hardiness level Red

Find out more

Hardy in Atlantic Seaboard gardens, The Channel Islands, gardens in Central London (and other large cities) and conservatories.

This is only meant as a guide; there are some plants with red labels that would only survive in extremely favoured spots such as The Isles of Scilly or coastal south-west Ireland.

We're always on hand to give advice about plants and their frost hardiness.

Please remember that these coloured labels are only a rough guide.

General Point about Plant Hardiness: The commonly held belief that it's better to 'plant small' is perfectly true with herbaceous plants, but not necessarily true with woody plants. They need some 'wood' on them to survive severe cold - so plants of marginal hardiness in very cold areas should really be planted LARGER, rather than smaller, wherever possible.