It seems to me that Eriogonum can be like that. I've had a couple up and die on me after about 3 years and some even after one year. I like the fact that there are so many different varieties to choose from. All of mine(just a couple) are just starting to bloom or will be shortly.
I've only grown a couple, and they seem to be fairly easy. Given a good draining soil and filtered light they seem to be quite easy to please. Here in Utah they prefer an eastern exposure. I let mine get early morning sun and pretty much full shade/bright shade the rest of the day.
In the UK, drainage will be the main concern (just like my area). I grow most of mine in pots that are overwintered in a cold frame to save them from excess rain and snow. I have one outside that is growing in mostly grit with just a little compost added.