Don't be tempted to do fancy things with this prickly fiend, keep it tucked out of harm's way in your borders

At Chelsea this year there was something called a patio garden (ie: a very weeny, little space) with a sea-side theme: stripy hammock, wavy grasses, seashells scattered artfully and so on. The whole installation was set on a nice bed of shingle and looked very inviting, apart from one small point - the gravel was studded with miniature eryngium. Eryngium, also known as eryngo or sea-holly, is a spiny beast and not pleasant to walk on: definitely best kept for borders, where it is both architecturally striking and comes in elegant shades of mauve, white or grey. According to a short story recently published in the Sunday Review, sea-holly roots, cooked and candied, are an aphrodisiac, but probably best not to try this at home.

hester Lacey