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?