Sunday, August 1, 2010

Plant of the Week: Cynara cardunculus

Cynara cardunculus is commonly called a cardoon. Originally I learned it as an annual and fabulous textural addition to container gardens and summer annual displays. ...but recently have learned it is a sensational marginally hardy perennial to definitely consider a strong garden contender.
The large lobed leaves are usually the reason people choose cardoons. This picture doesn't entirely do justice to the tomentose (botanical for "fuzzy with tons of short wooly hairs") gray-green leaves that really stand out, both in terms of texture and size. In full sun, which is really what they must have, Cynara will grow 4' x 4' in the course of a warm summer.
this is one from Battery Park a few years ago

Some references mention that they can get to 8' x 8' but I doubt that would ever be possible around here. Usually when I have seen cardoons they are just used as a great foliage plant. But this year not only did this cardoon come back for the third year, it got bigger than ever and put up this amazing flower spike.
Native to the Meditteranean, the FLORA Gardener's Encyclopedia lists this plant as hardy in USDA zones 7-10. Over the years I have come to consider this part of NY where I am (Long Island, New York City) to be a zone 6b or 7a and I think this further supports that to be true. I am already very excited to see what happens next year. Will it come back again? Will it get taller than the 5' or so you see here? We'll see!
Plant Cynara cardunculus in full sun with regular irrigation, use surrounding plantings to protect for best chances of the plant coming back year after year. The gray green foliage contrasts really well with red foliage plants. Oh, and if you think this looks like an artichoke, or have heard people call Cynara artichoke, you are right on. Cynara scolymus (or the Scolymus group of Cynara cardunculus depending on the reference cited) is the globe artichoke that grows in zones 8-10 which we eat as a delicious veggie, the immature flower buds harvested and cooked to be paired with your best hollandaise sauce for dipping. Mmm, guess I'm hungry, that made my mouth water!


Michael McGraw Photography said...

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