Charles Day is Wave Hill’s Ruth Rea Howell Senior Horticultural Interpreter.
The cool weather this past week may have put a temporary hold on spring, but only outside. Many of the plants in the Marco Polo Stufano Conservatory are still blooming in abundance. Among them is the variegated pride of Madeira (Echium candicans ‘Variegata’—also known as “star of Madeira”). It is sporting tall spikes of blue flowers, tinged pink by the slightly red-stained anther filaments, the thin wire-like structures which protrude from each little flower.
The non-variegated wild plant (Echium candicans) is native to the island of Madeira, where it can grow to a statuesque six feet in height. Our variegated form, with striking white edging on its foliage, tends to be smaller and, because our plants are growing in pots, they are somewhat restricted in size. Despite this, they still create quite an impression.
Artfully staged by Wave Hill gardener Susannah Strazzera, they form part of her blue-and-white themed arrangement in the middle of the Palm House, the central section of the Conservatory.
Magnificent though it is, pride of Madeira has made itself unwelcome in some parts of the world, particularly California and Australia, where it has seeded far and wide and formed invasive colonies. Given that it takes at least two years before it is mature enough to flower and produce seed, and that it is not able to survive outdoors in our winters here, we can enjoy its blooms without having to worry that it might become a problem weed.