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.


  1. I love these almost beyond of those plants I dearly wish I had room for!

  2. Beautiful! I adore cardoons. I cook mine up in soup or under the broiler with cream and parmesan. Yum.

  3. Not just the cardoon, your garden is lovely!

  4. Your border looks fabulous! I planted my cardoons from seed three years ago, it has become HUGE, I can no longer get into my car without being scragged . Yes , It does self seed, I've being digging them up ...plant exchange

  5. Your garden looks marvelous B.L. I also love cardoon but have taken to growing artichokes instead because they are shorter which works better for my garden.

  6. oh how interesting, gosh your garden is looking lovely - I love the curved concrete edge! You seem to have just the right mix of plants so that it looks lush without being overcrowded. I also like the different foliage colors you have.

  7. As others have noted these are great shots of your garden, as well as of a fabulous plant! I'd been growing one in a container until a month ago when I got rid of it in favor of a tomato. Perhaps I need to plant another in the ground?

  8. That is a spectacular foliage border! The cardoon makes an interesting focal point. The Chocolate Boneset really adds a pop of color. I am glad I bought one. I may go back to get a couple more.

  9. I saw a lot of these while I was out there. I rarely see them here in Alabama. I love the wide shots of your garden. I want to see more!

  10. I love this plant and grew it years ago but then a severe winter killed it. This year I planted it again and it's really going vertical. The only issue I have is (gardener error) I planted it next to what I thought was a dead Tetrapanax. But it was just sleeping and rolling around under the covers. Now it's waking up with new little babies popping out all over. Interesting combination this will be, don't you think?

    I love your photos. You've designed and incredibly beautiful foliage border here.

  11. I love these views of your border, Alison. I agree about the primal look of the mix of plants and that cardoon is a big part of the effect. You have a good eye for a cool plant. How lucky that you still have the garden space for some of the hunkier ones!

  12. A very cool plant I am unfamiliar with!

  13. I meant to plant cardoon this spring, dang it. I had two of them in the rose bed years ago and they elicited a great many comments!

  14. I love big plants, this one seems to qualify!

  15. One of the Master Gardeners here was sharing seeds for Cardoon, why did I pass them up??? Oy.
    ps- Love your closing statement about how you get 'paid'.

  16. Now, now. Are we talking about gardening or cooking? Haha! Well, that's the beauty of gardening, since you can plant anything you want (just as long as you know how to properly care for them), you can even plant your own food. We all know about the many benefits of this. And yes, Alison, your cardoon has taken off really nicely. Great job!
    Jeremy @ Flowers\' Gardens & Landscapes


Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.