Two separate travel experiences during spring 2018 brought the Echium genus into focus for me. The first was a visit to Gran Canaria, and seeing so many varieties – some unique to the island – in flower along its ridges and ravines (pictured below). The second was a walk around the ‘desert’ landscape of Dungeness in the south east of England. Great drifts of viper’s bugloss (E. vulgare) were in flower all over the beach, and the colour was just spectacular (bottom image). Having grown tree echiums (E. pininana) at the Garden Museum for many years, and enjoyed their enormous bee-covered, monocarpic blooms, I suggested a piece for the Guardian covering the history and cultivation of the wider Echium genus (published 15.06.19 and can be read here).