Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

My Favorite Plant in the Garden Right Now... my cardoon. From across the garden, it almost looks like a Christmas tree. I planted it last year, and this year it has really taken off.

I love the way its felty gray foliage and upright form contrasts with both the Alaska cedars to the left, and with the other foliage plants surrounding it. In case you're wondering, that's the cardoon on the far left.

With chocolate Eupatorium

I love the arch of the leaves

The other day while out in the garden, it struck me how primordial this view is, and the cardoon contributes greatly to that.

It's going to flower soon too. Its flowers resemble a small artichoke, which of course is in the same family.

A native of the Mediterranean, it's also deer-resistant. The unopened flowers can be eaten like an artichoke, and the stalks are edible as well. I recall seeing Mario Batali cooking it on the Food Network many years ago. In case you're curious, here's a link to some recipes. The stalk reportedly dies back after flowering, but then it regrows from the base. And it self-sows according to what I've read online, so I'll have to be careful about those flowers going to seed. Perhaps I'll try saving seed from it.
I actually planted two of them last year, close together, as a kind of insurance plan. But when I realized they were both thriving, I moved one of them this spring to another area of the bed, to anchor the other end. It sulked for a little while, and needed watering back in May when we had that three-week stretch of dry days. Now it's pumping out a lot of stalks, and seems happier.

Here's some cultivation info.

Cynara cardunculus (Cardoon)

Zone: 7a-9b

Light requirements: Full Sun (although mine gets a bit of morning shade from the overhead Douglas firs as the sun moves across the sky, then full afternoon sun)

Soil: Dry, well-drained, but fertile

Bloom time: Early to Mid-summer

Height: 6-8 ft.

Width: 1-3 ft.

You can find more info about it here at Plant Lust.

Loree at the blog danger garden has been posting regularly for quite a while now about her favorite plant in her garden, and has invited others to participate in it as a blogging meme.  You can read her current post here.