Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Euphorbias in bloom

Last fall I planted two new-to-me euphorbias, and they’re currently in full bloom. As you can see from the photos below, I’m talking about Mediterranean spurges, not the cactus-like euphorbias from Africa, which I also happen to love.

The first one was labeled as Euphorbia x martinii ‘Tiny Tim’ when I bought it, but it’s clear now that it is anything but tiny. ‘Tiny Tim’ is supposed to be no taller than 1 ft. whereas my plant is 2 ft. already. I’m beginning to think it’s the regular version of Euphorbia x martinii, a natural hybrid between Euphorbia amygdaloides and Euphorbia characias discovered in Southern France in the late 19th century.

But no matter what it is, it’s beautiful, especially right now in full bloom. It is planted in front of our giant clumping timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii), which makes for a good combination. Euphorbia x martinii is a relatively short-lived perennial (3-4 years), which is OK considering that by the time it dies, the bamboo will have expanded enough to cover any bald spot.

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Euphorbia x martinii
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Euphorbia x martinii close-up. The chartreuse colored “petals” are actually bracts, not part of the flower. The true flowers are the tiny star-like structures you can see toward the top of this stalk.

The other euphorbia I planted in the fall is a Euphorbia characias cultivar called ‘Glacier Blue’. It has grayish foliage edged in cream and looks great by itself. The flower clusters repeat the same variegation, which adds extra oomph in the spring. This is relative short euphorbia, up to 18 inches. Mine is about 12 inches now. I expect it to fill in over the course of the year and become denser by next spring.

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Euphorbia characias ‘Glacier Blue’
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Close-up of flower cluster

It seems that new spurge cultivars come out every year, and I’m happy to see more of them make into in our local nurseries. With their unique foliage, Mediterranean spurges form a nice contrast both to larger-leafed plants and to fine-bladed grasses like the Texas Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris) in the 2nd to last photo above.

Note: Like all euphorbias, spurges contain a latex-like sap that is caustic and can cause skin irritation. Wear gloves when handling these plants, and make sure sap never gets anywhere near your eyes.

3 comments:

  1. I've always liked the look of these, but I haven't had much success with them. I think the few I've tried to grow got too much water (rain). I'll have to read up on them and find a better site if I try one again.

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  2. I do love shrubby Euphorbias. We have several in the garden and I still gravitate towards them whenever we visit a garden centre.

    You're right, there are so many cultivars coming out every year that's I've totally lost track of them now, hehe!

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  3. I am so jealous - herbaceous Euphorbia are my passion, but after moving from Australia to Canada I am only left with a handful that will take the winters here. I resort to living vicariously through gardeners like yourself. Thanks for the post!

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