If you would like to help just turn up at the reserve at 09:00 on any Monday with a pair of stout boots and some gardening gloves and healthy exercise is almost guaranteed.
Except during special open days visiting the reserve is limited to Wildlife Trust members. However day tickets are available from the E.W.T HQ call 0044 (0)1621 862960. The Reserve is open during daylight hours seven days a week, weather permitting. It is a nature reserve not a public garden so some of the facilities you might otherwise expect, such as a gift shop, toilets or tea room, are not available. Dogs, other than guide dogs, are not allowed. There is no charge for entry, but please remember that even with volunteers giving their time free the maintenance of such a site is still a costly business and your contributions will be welcome and useful.
There is limited parking space on the reserve so ask large groups of people attending to share cars where possible and to contact Fiona Agassiz 0044 (0)1277 230436, John Cannell 0044 (0)1277 217236 or Mick Hedges 0044 (0)1277 231367 to ensure the visit does not clash with another large party.
If you would like someone to give an illustrated talk on Warley Place/Ellen Willmott please contact Olive Baldwin on 0044 (0)1277 373240.

Eryngium giganteum – Miss Willmott’s Ghost flowers with large thistle-like flower heads in a silvery green to blue-green shade from branched stems upon the upper third of the inflorescence. Each flower has an inches tall pine cone-like structure rather like a giant thimble rising up from the center surrounded by spiny bracts at the base providing the fascinating foil for their bold and fascinating garden posture. These arrive in late spring and continue into summer from tufts of green serrated spade-shaped leaves at ground level. The flowering event lasts well into summer and is a magnet for all manner of flying insects: bee flies, bumble bees, honeybees and those wasps that prefer nectar to predatory forays. The Giant Sea Holly is a bold biennial that when happy will self-sow in part shade to full sun. A colony is memorable. Miss Willmott can haunt our landscape wherever she wishes. Once seen it is anticipated in all coming seasons. Might be best interred in spring for northern customers. Established plants from seed.

This perennial dies back to below ground level each year in autumn, then fresh new growth appears again in spring.

  • Position: full sun
  • Soil: dry, well-drained, poor to moderately fertile soil
  • Rate of growth: average
  • Flowering period: June and August
  • Hardiness: fully hardy
    Easily recognised by their ruff of spiky bracts surrounding a prominent , cone-like centre of tiny flowers, sea hollies make a bold statement in a sunny border or gravel garden. This variety is also known as ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’, after the nineteenth-century gardener, Ellen Wilmott, who liked to secretly scatter seeds of the plant in other people’s gardens. The name could equally apply to the plant’s appearance, with its ruff of large, prickly, steely-grey bracts that shine a ghostly silver in the sun. The marbled, heart-shaped foliage is attractive too, and shown off to best effect planted in gravel. Or try this eryngium in bold clumps among grasses. Eryngiums are also perfect for use in dried flower arrangements. This plant is a biennial, but self-seeds freely.
  • Garden care: This eryngium looks tatty after flowering, so cut it to the ground in autumn. Lift and divide large colonies in spring.

Eryngium giganteum

Can I grow this plant in semi shade



Hello, No, this plant is a really sun-lover, so it will not thrive in partial shade.



Sea Holly going dark brown? Hi, I was so pleased with the beautiful ‘Sea Holly’ recently purchased from your web-site. I am not at all familiar with sea hollies, but I planted it in a very sunny position into my clay soil. It seemed very happy there for a few weeks, but is now looking unhealthy with some brown leaves. I think it may be due to the heavy rain of late. I would appreciate some advice regarding same. Kind Regards, Linda

Linda Payne


Hello Linda, Eryngiums love well drained, poor soils with lots of sun, so if it is not flourishing, it is possible that your soil is too heavy and wet for it – especially after all this rain we have had. The best thing you can do then is to move it to a soil that has better drainage (or even a pot) and it should pick up.


Crocus Helpdesk

Eryngium bourgatii’ Picos Amethyst’ Hello I bought 2 Eryngium bourgatii ‘Picos Amethyst’ from you in April. One of them has flowered beautifully (amazing colour) and the other one has just sat there sprouting more leaves. They are close to each other – could that be the problem, the flowering one taking all the nutrients from the other one – or is there something else wrong? Any advice, gratefully received. Many Thanks, Edel

Edel Erickson


Hello again Edel, Do give it a feed, but I would not expect to see instant results – it may be that the plant won’t flower until next year. Best regards, Helen Plant Doctor


Crocus Helpdesk

Hi Helen That’s great. Thanks a lot. I’ll give it a feed and see what happens – such a brilliant plant. Thanks Edel


Edel Erickson

Hello Edel, There may not necessarily be anything wrong, but one may be putting most of its energies into producing leaves rather than flowers. Unfortunately plants do not always grow in the same way, but given the right conditions there is no reason why it won’t eventually flower. All you need to do is make sure it gets well fed and watered and gets plenty of sun. If you want to give it a bit of a push you can feed it with Tomorite. I hope this helps. Helen Plant Doctor


Crocus Helpdesk

What plants would you recommend for my Mediterranean style garden? Our garden is quite well established and has a Mediterranean feel. We have quite a few spaces that need filling and were hoping you could suggest a few things?

Mrs C Taylor

2005-03-31 2005-04-01


What can I plant in a Mediterranean style garden? I want give my garden a Mediterranean look but I do not know what to plant. Could you please help? 2005-03-29 2005-03-30


Eryngium giganteum ‘Miss Wilmott’s Ghost’ seeds – (Giant Sea Holly)


This plant is spectacular, with unusual metallic silvery grey leaves, stems and flowers. It has a green cone in the centre of the flower. It shines in the garden, and reaches its peak in late summer, when all else is becoming untidy and faded. The flowers are excellent for cutting, fresh or dried.
It has its name from the tale that English plantswoman Ellen Willmott used to secretly scatter seeds of this plant while visiting other peoples’ gardens, since she liked the plant so much.
In summer it produces large heads of lovely lime-green flowers with blue stamens backed by large and conspicuous bracts, the whole later developing a shining silvery hue.

The “giganteum” refers to the flower heads which are large, and not to the plant which usually grows to approx 90 cm high. Prefers full sun in a light well-drained soil. Will tolerate very light shade. Plant into final position while the plant is young. The roots are often several feet long and do not like to be disturbed. Flower stems may be cut back after flowering but the seedheads are attractive and could be left over winter. Cut flowers before fully open if you wish to dry them. Divide in early spring or autumn, be gentle, the plant does not like root disturbance. It will need to be protected from winter wetness, and is drought tolerant once established. Will self-seed.

Sowing advice

Sow Spring and early Summer
Surface sow onto moist well-drained seed compost. Just cover with potting mix. Propagate 18-22°C. for 2-4 weeks. Do not exclude light. Germination can be slow. Seal seed container in a polythene bag and leave for 2 further weeks, then cold stratify. Move to a fridge 4°C for 3-6 weeks. After this return to warmth but no more than 18°C. If germination does not occur within 6-10 weeks return to fridge for further 3-6 weeks. Examine regularly whilst in fridge and immediately remove any seeds which show signs of germination. Move to 8cm pots. Acclimatise and plant out when large enough.

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