This plant is a bromeliad, a member of the pineapple family. Most bromeliads come from tropical rainforests and are epiphytic, which means that they grow on the branches of trees. But this bromeliad comes from the coastal forests of Chile and unusually grows in soil like most other plants. Its Latin name is Fascicularia, which means “growing together in bundles” and it is the very same word from which the Italian “Fascisti” derives, which means “a group bound tightly together”. According to the RHS at Wisley it can’t be grown outside in the UK, but we’ve been growing them outside for years and when I went out to take this photo today I noticed that we have about 70 clumps, which must be upwards of 350 plants in all. At this time of year the leaves start to turn a brilliant crimson and the rosette in the centre opens into a pale-blue flower. The trick to survival, as with so many exotics is good drainage. Last winter the hard frost burnt the leaves quite badly and they looked rather unsighly for much of the spring, but they have pulled through nicely.