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Davis gardener Gerhard Bock, author of "Bamboo, Succulents and More," tries growing a different kind of towering flower Mr. Happy echium:
"A few years ago, we had a tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii) blooming in our front yard. It produced copious amounts of seeds, and two of those seedlings are growing outside our front-yard fence. Since this is their second year, I expected them to bloom this spring, but it looks like they'll wait another year. Echium wildpretii is a biennial, which means it flowers in its second year, sets seeds and then dies.
"However, not all is quiet on the echium front. My Echium x 'Mr Happy', purchased in February 2012 at Annie's Annuals, is a-blooming. According to Annie's, this 'incredibly rare hybrid of Echium wildpretii and Echium pininana' has the potential to reach 'an impressive 15 feet tall and 20 inches across, with a 3-foot bulbous base.'
"My specimen is much less 'studly' and lacks the 'bulbous base' altogether. But at least it's full of flowers that are irresistible to bees."
Read more and see photos of 'Mr. Happy' at: www.bambooandmore.info