Cut flowers for the house


The spiky flower head of my Cardoon plant

The spiky flower head of my Cardoon plant

Cut Cardoon to be accurate, and these flower heads never seemed to actually flower.  Maybe this variety is not supposed to, but I had waited and waited for tufts of colour or thistle type petals to emerge, but they never did.  Cutting was a tough job even for my secateurs!  However, what beautiful heads they are for my vase.

Cardoon flower head

Bunch of Cardoon flowers

Over the last few days of early morning frosts, the plant has begun to sag and look sad – so architecturally and proudly tall all summer – its stems were now withering and leaves curling with the damaging cold.  Before it fell completely, I wanted to bring the remains of its splendour indoors.

Cardoons picked

The leaves had curled and turned a soft, silvery green

I had meant to harvest the stems earlier in the year.  You can braise the leaf stalks, which look like large celery stalks, and can be served steamed or braised, having an artichoke-like flavour.  They are harvested in winter and spring, being best just before the plant flowers.   The flower buds themselves can be eaten too, like the artichoke.  When I came to cut the leaves, I found lots of beetle-like insects sheltering, one had woven a silky cocoon between the vein ridges on the underside of the leaf, and I didn’t have the heart to disturb or destroy its safe place.

I used this pot as a vase as the colours seemed to match perfectly

I used this pot as a vase as the colours seemed to match perfectly

There are regions in Italy where the Cardoon is traditionally served for Christmas lunch, as a soup of Cardoon cooked in chicken broth.  Must try this next year!

Mine has been wonderful in the garden, imposing and sculptural in the centre of my planting for bees and pollinators.   It was only a few inches in height when I placed it in Spring, but had grown taller than me, so I had to reach up to cut these flower stems.

Cardoon in pot

It is lovely to bring a touch of the outdoors in, a few simple stems or little posy  lift the spirits, and I love to look closely at each leaf and petal and marvel at nature.  Do you have a favourite cut flower at this time of year?

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