An old Victorian favourite, once grown as a vegetable and blanched for use rather like celery, the cardoon, Cynara cardunculus, is now valued for its striking silvery, thistle-like foliage which adds a theatrical touch to the border. In summer, tall flower stems are topped by fat thistle buds which resemble small globe artichokes – the plants are close cousins. The buds finally open into large purple thistle flowers which attract masses of bees. The dead flowerheads can be left on the plants to provide additional interest in winter, and may lure in a flock of finches
Grow Cynara cardunculus in fertile, well-drained soil in full sun. Mulch annually with well-rotted manure or compost.