If you’re familiar with Corinthian columns, you are also aware of the decorative accent in the form of foliage that typically adorns them. These belong to the genus Acanthus, also known as Bear’s Breeches, from the Greek acanthe which translates into ‘thorn’ These magnificent plants, often with drop dead gorgeous, incised tropical looking leaves and pinkish white flowers appearing on spikes replete with spiny, nefarious leaf like bracts are guaranteed to add mondo drama to any garden! I refuse for an instant to be without this stunning beauty, even though they tend to gravitate towards hot sunny borders, as opposed to my shaded sanctuary. It just goes to show that will extra TLC you can successfully grow just about anything! Best of all, they make a spectacular specimen for a photographic essay as the following pictures attest to!
I cultivate Acanthus hungaricus, which is toothed and spiny in the margins, It lacks the monster appearance of its cousins, A. spinosus and A. mollis, and sadly is rarely seen in gardens for this same reason. Information that I have read lists hardiness between zones 6-9, yet I do nothing in the least and my somewhat demure clump returns year after year. It flowered the first year and then seemed to go dormant for two before reinstating itself with no less than 8 flower spikes this year!
Propagation is extremely straightforward, by taking root cuttings in early Spring. Unfortunately for some, Acanthus represents an unwanted garden thug. In warmer climates, in areas where gravelly soil is abundant they can become rampant colonizers. In the Mediterranean they grow on the rocky slopes of roadsides in abundance. I on the other hand am only too happy to include this statuesque beauty in my garden repertoire!