Not forgotten

Yesterday I wrote about a plant I had forgotten about and left exposed to some freezing temperatures. I'm happy to say that I did not forget about today's plant, which is one of my favorites but is only marginally hardy in my climate:


It's a cardoon, and if I don't give it some protection it most likely won't survive the winter. Let's look at how I decided to protect it this year.


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Since I grew these from seed last year, they won't flower until next year -- their second year.


I really love the flowers, so it's important to me that this plant survives the winter. I'm not sure if this plant is a biennial which means it lives just two years, or a perennial which means it will live longer. I haven't had a plant last more than two years in a row, but that could be due to a harsh winter, poor protection for the plant, or too much winter moisture.


One year I had two of these plants survive the winter, and that was the year I left all of the leaves on the plant so they formed sort of a protective "tent" over it. I suspect that was the reason they survived, although I have no proof. It may have been just a bit milder than usual that winter.

I planted this in a bottomless pot earlier this year, and that gave me an idea of how to easily protect this plant for the winter.


I'm going to use some of this fencing material to surround the plant:


Then use some of these oak leaves which I didn't rake up (but honestly, they fall all winter long, so there's really no point in raking, right?):


And pack them around the plant:


I packed the leaves in there quite well, pushing in as many as I could fit, getting under the leaves too:


I'm not concerned about protecting the leaves, as they definitely won't survive the winter and have several types of pests on them anyway (although I suppose the freeze has killed them already):


The important thing is to protect the crown of the plant -- the base from which all of the above-ground growth emerges. All of these oak leaves will certainly do that, and will keep it relatively dry too.

So hopefully next year I'll remove all of the leaves and see some signs of new leaves emerging, then wait a few months for the blooms. I know that the deer and rabbits didn't bother this plant, but I can't remember if woodchucks like it... I sure don't want to find out the hard way though.

It would be a bummer to have a 2-year wait for the plant to reach it's peak spoiled by some hungry beast... but I can't worry about that now. One step at a time, and the step of protecting this great plant from winter's worst is now finished.

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Gerhard Bock  – (December 8, 2010 at 10:06 AM)  

I love cardoon, too, but the two times I tried to grow it here, it always looked lanky and ratty so eventually I got rid of the plants. I suspect the soil might have been too heavy. I might try again in a pot because it is such an architectural plant. Other gardeners in our area have great luck with globes artichokes (closely related) so cardoons should do well, too.

This Wikipedia article is quite interesting, especially the section about culinary use: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardoon.

Alan  – (December 8, 2010 at 3:17 PM)  

I think they need a fair amount of water to look their best, so maybe that was the issue for you.

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