Cardoon

Do you remember a few months back when I built a small raised bed using a large bottomless pot? I planted a Cardoon in it. I was hoping the plant would reach the huge proportions it did for me when I first started growing it a few years ago, and would add a bold element to this area of the yard.


It hasn't quite matched my expectations, but I'm still pretty happy with it.

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It still has the large, bold, spiky leaves that I love so much.


It still has the wonderful blue-gray color too.


It's just not as full or large as I had hoped. I knew this was a tough area when I planted it, as it gets quite hot over here during the summer. The nearby maple tree sucks all of the moisture and nutrients out of the ground too (which is why I planted it in a raised bed in the first place).


I'm hoping I can get it through the winter, because next year it will be bigger and more impressive, and will produce those great thistle-like flowers that are beautiful to my eyes and those of the bees too.


That's a photo from 2008, and now that I've seen it again I'm even more eager for this plant to survive the winter -- I want to see those flowers again!

To see what I was really hoping for with this plant, we have to look back to 2006, the first year I grew this:


As you can see, it's an eye-popper! Comparing that to this year's plant:


Not so much eye-popping. It seems like this year would have been big and full like 2006's plant, except for all of the brown, dead leaves. I suspect that I didn't water enough, which let those leaves wither and die too soon. Lesson learned: Cardoon wants lots of water!


Now that I think about it, it may also be that I didn't start the seeds early enough this year. I know the first time I grew it in 2006 I started them pretty early -- maybe the end of February? That gave them a lot of time to get fairly large (too large for under flourescent lights!) before I planted them out.


This year I waited until... I don't remember when, but I know it wasn't February. I definitely need to post when I start seeds at the end of this winter, or I'll never remember. That's one of the reasons I started this blog, so I would have a thorough diary of what I did in the garden. So I guess I failed in that area this time around.


Anyway, I think the secret to keeping the Cardoon alive over the winter here is to keep it mulched and keep the crown of the plant pretty dry. I think I'll cover it with a pot or something similar. I want the roots to get moisture, but I don't want the crown itself to get too wet. If we get another extra-cold winter like last year, I suspect it won't survive, dry crown or not. So fingers crossed for a mild winter!

Even being only half as impressive as it was that first year, it's a great plant and I'm going to keep on growing it. I'll use this post to remind myself what I should do differently next time.

That's the great thing about gardening in temperate climates -- you get a few months of winter to contemplate what you did wrong, then you get to try again!

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