Still Standing

Despite the strong winds that are currently buffeting the house, and sweeping unhindered across the garden, the cardoons are still standing strong. I cannot help but admire their structure and steadfast nature.

Cardoon structure

I love their giant leaves with serrated edges, the older stems as thick as my wrist, creating a canopy beneath which the cats like to shelter, and seemingly immune to being toppled by the wind.

Cardoon structure (Cynara cardunculus)

The new leaves come through a pale silvery-lime green, becoming deeper and darker as they age.

Cardoon flower (Cynara cardunculus)

While those plants have yet to flower, there are two others further down the garden which sent up strong stems topped with striking globe-shaped buds. The scales, mottled with burgundy, gradually open as the bud splits at the top to reveal the first glimpse of purple within.

Cardoon flower (Cynara cardunculus)I am intrigued by the colours and geometry of these concentric rings of spiked scales, and the tightly nested purple petals pushing out from the top.

Cardoon flower (Cynara cardunculus)

I must confess that it was the spectacular flowers that first caught my eye on a visit to Painswick Rococo Gardens last year, and for which I sowed these seeds, but more and more I find myself drawn also to the structure of the plant as a whole, with its architectural foliage and buds. I suspect we will need to remove one or two of the four plants that are currently in this border, as they do fill a large space, but I hope those that remain will form a fine backdrop to this border next summer, with more seasonal flowers for the bees to enjoy.

We have yet to explore their edible nature, but apparently the young buds can be eaten much like artichokes, while the leaves can be wrapped in straw and tied for three weeks to blanch the stems which are more commonly eaten on these plants. Something to try next year, perhaps.

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12 thoughts on “Still Standing

  1. Great photos of a spectacular plant. If only all our plants were that robust! There have been some pretty strong winds this week, and I expect that a lot of gardeners have experienced some considerable damage. I’m away from home at present, but thankful that I staked-up all my tall plants like the broccoli. I hope there has been little or no damage.

    • Fingers crossed for no damage on your return. The winds have been pretty strong: our wooden bench keeps blowing over, so I am glad that these plants are still standing strong. The flower stems are leaning now, but the main structure remains sturdy.

  2. Thanks for reminding me of this plant – it is one often seen in Italy to buy as a vegetable, in Viterbo the dialect word is “gobbo” which means hunchback! No-one has successfully explained why this name is used. It would, I’m sure, grow well for me, I must get some seed. Christina

    • Intriguing name, you’ll have to let us know if you ever discover its origins, could be a good story! You have lots of space for cardoons to romp away happily in your warmer climes, I look forward to seeing your success!

  3. They are beautiful, possibly a bit too big for my own garden. I’ve been to Painswick a few times now but only to see the snowdrops. Must try to get there later in the year.

    • Mmm they are rather big. But I must keep at least one … somewhere! We’ve only been on a mid-summer visit to Painswick for a day course on espalier training – which was marvellous. We didn’t have time to see everything, but I was smitten by the flowers of the cardoons in the kitchen garden near where we were working. We must go back to explore properly one day.

  4. Sara they sound wonderful so I just did a search and me thinks I shall be looking for seed ๐Ÿ™‚
    it is amazing how some plants stand when others fall, the dead stalks of the fennel are still standing even after yesterdays’ gale! Frances

  5. The plants remind me of soldiers and pirate treasure as in dragoons and doubloons. From tiny Cardoon seeds, mighty beauties grow. Fabulous foliage indeed to withstand west Welsh wind buffeting.
    p.s. pleasure to catch up on your hello kitty wordless posts as well

  6. They look amazing and are something I’ve been meaning to add to our border for a while. I do keep sewing seed but the seedlings have never taken, seeing your lovely photos makes me want to try again. Hope the winds aren’t doing too much damage. Bethx

    • Good luck! I love them. Will have to edit them a bit for next year though as they do take up space. A few leaves have torn off now, but otherwise unscathed to date…

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