The Artichoke Project

The Artichoke Project

An edible thistle-Artichoke

An edible thistle-Artichoke

Late last November I planted two Artichoke plants in a sunny spot in one of my new flower beds. I wanted something to grow fast and add some variety of color and shape to my view. They grew beautifully! By March their silvery-green leaves spiked up vigorously at both ends of the bed providing a framework for the smaller plants between them. The end of each symmetrical leaf was punctuated with a fine thistle tip.

Silvery-green leaves

Silvery-green leaves

Water filled stalks with strong ribs in a soft shade of green provided the support for the many leaves. Visions of artichokes and cheese sauce came to mind!

Ribbed stalks shaded by the leaves

Ribbed stalks shaded by the leaves

Then a visitor walked through my garden. Prem, a passionate gardener all the way down to his toes, is also a retired nuclear inspector for the state of Arizona, but gardening brings him joy. He enjoyed everything in the garden and complemented many of the plants and features he was seeing for the first time. When he arrived at my artichoke plant he stopped. He cradled the bud in his hands, then turned to me, looked deeply into my eyes and said, “You must promise me you won’t cut this to eat.” I looked at him in a quizzical way and he continued, “This will make such a beautiful flower. You will break my heart if you do not let this grow into flowers. If you want an artichoke to eat you can buy one at the market. Promise me you won’t cut this.” What could I say to such an impassioned plea? I agreed to let them grow.

Grand plant full of buds

Grand plant full of buds

The two plants grew nearly 4’ high and 5’ wide. The buds expanded and the outer bracts pealed back tinged with shades of purple.

The buds opened in vivid colors

The buds opened in vivid colors

The fuzzy hairs of the inner choke rose up to the sun and opened in bright purple hairs. The purple centers were soon attracting bees!

Every morning the bees swarmed the flowers

Every morning the bees swarmed the flowers

The growing conditions for the plants must have been simply perfect as the plants grew and grew, with new buds forming all over. One plant had over 25 buds, growing so heavy it began to tilt to its side. The buds all opened and the plant was full of color, beautiful from the front and equally wonderful from the back.

Mid June I decided to cut the flowers from the plant that had tilted over from its own weight. I carefully cut each one with as long a stem as I could.

One plant produced all these blooms

One plant produced all these blooms

The flowers were still bright purple and needed to dry so we hung them in the garage by their stems to let them finish.

The drying system, hanging from the stems

The drying system, hanging from the stems

The other plant was still upright so I decided to let it dry in the garden. We left on vacation and when I returned after five weeks the artichoke flowers had dried in the sun to a deep golden color.

The dried stalk

The dried stalk

I cut these in early August put them in my garden shed. Some of the blooms had become a bit dirty and smashed from the many days in the sun and weather.

A weathered look

A weathered look

I decided to pull some of the dirty hairs from the center of the flower, they released easily and what remained was a bright yellow bloom.

Carefully I cleaned off the debris

Carefully I cleaned off the debris

It is amazing to realize that each of those hairs creates a parachute for a seed to grow another plant.

My two plants started from 4” pots produced over 50 flowers, some as large as 10” in diameter, others 3-4” in size. All are quite beautiful. Just one bloom is a stunning sight. The artichoke project entertained me for eight months in the garden and produced beautiful flower stalks to enjoy for months to come. Today there is renewed passion for growing our food, gardeners are eager to grow vegetables, fruits. It is exciting to produce watermelon, onions, tomatoes, any number of tasty vegetables. In my artichoke project I was aiming for food, but in resisting my desire for the food for the body, I let the plant produce flowers which creates food for my soul. Now I am looking for friends who would like an artichoke flower!

A golden bloom

A golden bloom

Floriade Nightfest

Floriade Nightfest

 In ancient times much of the world paused in their work to celebrate flowers.  Weary of winter and with food supplies running low the Roman Goddess Flora was celebrated. In the spring a Maypole was erected, ribbons streamed down and the dancing began.  Young women wore crowns of flowers in their hair. The beauty ofContinue Reading

Floriade, a Celebration of Spring!

Floriade, a Celebration of Spring!

Floriade is a annual Spring celebration of flowers, held in Commonwealth Park, Canberra, the Australian Capital. The month long celebration has been held for 27 years from mid Sept. to mid October. Over 1 million flowers are planted in the park and when the show opens this incredibly diverse community streams in with friends andContinue Reading

Chinese Friendship Garden

Chinese Friendship Garden

In September it is spring in Sydney Australia and when we walked into the 2.5 acre Chinese Friendship Garden for a moment I thought this will be the same as other Chinese gardens. There were the quite wonderful textured rocks and the bonsai collection in the entry but there was something more, the garden wasContinue Reading

Roma Street Parkland

It is said that great cities have great parks and as I travel I see this proved true again and again.  But I would add, great cities have citizens who realize the value of their parks and come to them to rest, relax, revive their spirits and reconnect to the important things in life.  HereContinue Reading

Brisbane Botanic Gardens:

Brisbane Botanic Gardens:

  Sept 12 and it’s spring in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  The Azaleas are in bloom in the Japanese Garden.  The Water Dragons on the prowl since it is mating season.  They slip out of the shrubbery and look about then suddenly rise up on all four feet, puff up their head and jut out theirContinue Reading

Destination: The Oregon Garden

Destination: The Oregon Garden

Some ideas take a long time to grow and The Oregon Garden is just such an idea. The Oregon Association of Nurseries had long wanted (since 1940) a demonstration garden to highlight the incredible variety of plants grown in the area.  Since 1968, the citizens of Oregon have been leaders in protecting the climate, air,Continue Reading

Sunflowers in Song

Sunflowers in Song

A single row of sunflowers is a delight in my garden!  As the flowers fade and seeds form a flock of yellow canaries and some peach faced loved birds descended on the tasty seed heads. I heard them chatter, I heard their songs. They were everywhere in the garden. I looked out my window andContinue Reading

Stumpery Garden

Stumpery Garden

As a southwest gardener, wandering into a northwest woodland garden is an exciting experience. Here are the shade plants of azaleas, jack-in-the pulpit, mayflower, hostas and rhododendrons. There are great varieties of tree bark textures, conifer needles and dazzling shades of green.  Discovering  the Stumpery Garden in the Rhododendron Species Garden in Federal Way, WAContinue Reading

Farm fields of flowers

Farm fields of flowers

Driving through the Willamette Valley, near Silverton, Oregon I saw a field of poppies being raised for seed.  This wonderful agricultural area is known for fruit, wine, and more but I didn’t know there would be fields of flowers.What a crop! For me it was simply beautiful but for the farmer it was a business, aContinue Reading