In Praise of Thistles

2016-01-09 16.58.01 smI hate thistles.

California thistles infest my garden. Their underground runners are impossible to remove, and every time I pull one, two spring up in its place.

Leave them laying on the ground once you’ve pulled them and they either re-root and have to be pulled again, or they dry into vicious prickly brown masses, ready to stab any exposed flesh in the garden.

But thistles have another side.

Artichokes (a thistle) provide us delicious food in early spring, when little else is available in the garden.

Cardoons (the artichoke’s poor wild cousin) produce stunning fist-sized purple blooms. Even the @!#!*&$*!%# California thistles have beautiful flowers if I don’t manage to pull them quickly enough. Those flowers attract bees by the dozen, and I love to watch the bees tumbling around in the giant flowers.

At this time of year, I’ve usually managed to get on top of the California thistles and prevented them from flowering, but the cardoon—a centrepiece of the flower garden—puts on a gorgeous display. Standing two metres tall and topped with dozens of giant purple flowers, you can be forgiven for forgetting that the plant is a thistle.

Just don’t make me try to pull that thing out…

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