Monday, April 14, 2014

Unexpected cardoon survival

Last year we planted cardoons in the demo garden, and they became impressive plants:

although didn't make it to flowering stage. In the fall, I cut down the stalks and prepared the roots for winter as suggested: mulching well with leaves, placing a bucket over each plant stub, and tying the whole thing down with black plastic on top. Then came the arctic blast of this winter, and despite the protection, I didn't expect the plants to survive. But, a couple of weeks after we took all the plastic stuff off, they are back and growing:

Now the interesting part, because I also had a cardoon plant in my community garden plot, which never achieved anything like the height and breadth of the demo garden plants (it's the soil). I decided to let it die, and didn't mulch it at all. You would think the repeated hard freezes of the winter would have done for it. Nevertheless:

And that was a week before the plants in the demo garden showed themselves. I'm impressed. I've had cardoon plants overwinter before (see below) but only in the wimpy zone-8-like winters. Perhaps the frequent snow insulation helped, or else this is a hardier variety than I've grown previously. (It's called Avorio, and claims hardiness to zone 6, though I didn't actually believe that!)

Unfortunately I have planned a tomato plant for that space in my community garden plot, so I'll have to dig up the cardoon and move it somewhere else.

Cardoons are a close relative of artichokes, grown for the edible leaf stalks rather than for the flower bud. The stalks are better if blanched by wrapping the plant, which I admit I don't usually do, because it's so ornamental and dramatic if left alone. Here are some of those winter survivors from a few years back, with me as measuring stick:

And a closeup of the flower, which is why you want it to grow a second year (flowering the first year is possible but not common in my experience).

Very popular with bumblebees! Crossing my fingers for flowers this year for the demo garden plants.


  1. Fascinating, Erica! Please let us know how the hardy cardoon character that survived in your community garden plot survives the transplant!

  2. Ooh. Haven't checked mine, or the ones we planted at the community gardens, yet. Sure would be cool if they overwintered here in Franklin County, again. Here are our blog posts from 2012 when they survived because of the very mild winter:

    1. I hope they do, Ray! And ha, I love your post titles. They do look otherworldly.


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