Saturday, December 01, 2007

Plant of the month - November

Cynara cardunculus


In the depths of winter when there's little else to entertain, this is a marvellous change from the usual evergreen blobs. Massive architectural stems hold aloft these sculptural pincushions right through the worst of the weather. Even better are the downy tufts of golden fluff that sit inside, adored by the birds for winter nest material, and beautiful when the sun catches them, too. They're mostly gone by this time of year - though you can see some of the effect here:

As you can see, the resident flock of bluetits (and sparrows, and starlings, and robins...) have had their chunk, but isn't that butterscotch yellow gorgeous against a blue winter sky?

As if all that wasn't enough, cardoons hold a rosette of serrated, sword-shaped slate-green leaves at the base all winter, which then develop into even more stately beauty next year. I love cardoons at any time, but now they take centre stage and I appreciate them more than any other plant in the garden. You can't ask for more than that.


Miranda Bell said...

Another good article - one plant I must admit I've never grown and always intended to... are they easy to grow from seed? I'd be happy to send you some of the Oriental Poppy seeds from here in exchange if you have any spare seed? They may be like some plants easier to do from root cuttings? - Do let me know... Miranda

The Constant Gardener said...

Hi Miranda! Yes you can grow them from seed and they're pretty easy, too, though I must confess I never need to - mine self-seeds itself (fortunately not too aggressively - one or two extra plants a year). If you'd like, I can see if any new babies come up this spring and send you one? (and by the way would love those poppy seeds in exchange!)
I think the birds have had all the seed this year otherwise I'd happily put some in an envelope. I'll have another look and let you know if there are any left, but it's been pretty thoroughly picked over! And yes, you can do them as "Irishman's cuttings" (don't know the PC word for it!) where they produce little young plants from the base which have roots on them - just break off with roots attached and pot up.
best wishes,

Miranda Bell said...

Hi Sally - sorry I've just found your note... if you email me your address I'll post you some of the seeds - I'm pretty sure I've still got some from this year.

Would love a baby Cardoon if you have one... keep me posted!

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