Saturday, June 4, 2011

You Planted WHAT?


Frequent readers of this blog probably remember the Going Native Garden Tour that I participated in this year, with Ms. Country Mouse and Mr. Mouse helping out as docents. The many visitors truly enjoyed the garden. But I did get a few comments on my thistle. "Why did you plant this?" "Oh, a thistle, aren't they horrible weeds?"


But this is no ordinary thistle. This is a California Native cobweb thistle (Cirsium occidentale)  that I bought from Annie's Annuals earlier this spring. I admit it's an experiment, which is why I bought only one. If it reseeds a lot, I'll pull all the babies and be done with it. If it reseeds a little, I'll be happy and watch the situation. If it doesn't reseed - well, I'm actually tempted to order a few more. Or maybe I'll try to propagate it. Just look how nice the gray harmonizes with the sedum, and the leaf structure is very appealing.

And then there are the tantalizing buds.


I checked daily while preparing for my trip to Tassajara, but I had to leave before I could see the blossom. But now I'm back, and I really am impressed.


Isn't that a cool blossom? I love the color, more red than this photo makes it look. And I know that butterflies and other pollinators will be by -- thistles are everybody's favorite.


If all goes well -- and if I don't experience a reseeding disaster -- I hope to have maybe five of these beauties in the garden next year, a delight for humans and animals alike. As for the tour, I'll have to create a label with a photo and an explanation. Not all thistles are created equal. While the bull thistle or, worse, the Afghan thistle are horrible pests in California wildlands, this thistle is actually a welcome source of pollen. It's pretty and it's useful. What more could one ask?

10 comments:

Elephant's Eye said...

I'm waiting to see if my thistles are going to flower as friendly locals or invasive aliens. The leaves are good ...

Sue Langley said...

Ooooh, LOVE this thistle. I'd gladly trade some seeds for whatever you'd like from my place.

There is something so architectural about these. My sister and I planted a cardoon in her garden (NZ) and she loves it!

The photo of the fantastic-looking bud reminds me of the Fibonacci sequence as it relates to nature, basically math and designs in nature. Bet you could find it applies.

luvarugula said...

actually, i am a fan of thistles. i think they are naturally photogenic.

ryan said...

Kudos for planting it. I think it's really cool. I love the bud and there's something punk rock about putting in a plant that so many people would consider a weed.

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

They are fascinating plants.

Just don't get all thistle crazed, and plant star thistle. Those have such vicious spikes, that they can puncture the tire of a wheelchair.

James said...

I agree with you that several of these would make a good statement. Something about a solitary thistle screams "weed" but get a few together in what's an obviously planned planting and people will appreciate them for what cool plants they are.

Gail said...

It's gorgeous!

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

For two years I've wanted to plant these, but Mr. CV, after been poked and skewered by the invasive bull thistles here, thinks I'm nuts! I want to be rid of the bull thistles, but provide a native replacement to keep our bumble bees happy. I may just have to plant them in an out of the way location, and see if he notices ;) They really are quite lovely in bloom.

Country Mouse said...

I agree a few would be nicer than one - if you can keep it to a few, that is! I apologize to (almost) every bull thistle I destroy. All weeds but bull thistles in particular as they are so stunning. Nice to have a thistle you can approve of! Seeing these reminds me of being on Big Sur where I've seen them growing wild.

Christine said...

Absolutely lovely. And like ryan says, kinda punk rock. I have to giggle to myself though as I consider the idea of having to "restore" your mouse-made native garden to save it from the thistle!