We haven’t had a flowering Echium pininana in the garden for the last few years, a great shame as the towering blue flower spikes are a joy to behold, especially when buzzing with bees. It takes at best two years to get to flowering size and in our climate generally three years, quite a feat as in the wild it can reach up to 4m in this short amount of time. They are native to the Canary Islands which have at least ten million more hours of sun a year than we do and probably a fraction of the rain. Our recent tough winters (very cold, very wet, although they will take a little frost) have killed them off before they reach their prime. They are monocarpic; once they finish flowering they will die, although the bloom will last for weeks. The seed is much tougher and have continued to germinate over the years in obscure places, tracking my route through the garden dragging the dead plant and seed head behind me, and once they get going grow rapidly. This specimen seeded itself in the Road Bank amongst the Caulteya spicata and now they have died down it is standing proud and somewhat exposed! I haven’t given up hope that it will survive the winter, but just in case we of course have understudies in the greenhouse!