Monday, May 25, 2009


'A Young Lady' attributed to Piero del Pollaiuolo(1443-1496)
Berlin, Staatliche Museen
The leaves and flowers of the artichoke are used as a decorative motif on clothing.
Artichoke Wallpaper (1897) by John Henry Dearle
for William Morris & Co
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Cynara scolymus Globe Artichoke
The artichoke has been cultivated for centuries and is a decorative ornamental vegetable with arching silver leaves and a tall thistle like flower which is picked and eaten when at an immature stage. In Europe the main artichoke growing areas are in Brittany, France near Treguier ,where it has been grown since 1508 and in Italy on the coastal plain near Brindisi. In Australia, it was one of the first vegetables to be cultivated. Between 1803 -1812, Irish convict Sir Henry Browne Hayes grew it in his garden at Vaucluse in Sydney as artichokes had been included in the First Fleet seed list.
Artichokes are hardy over a range of climates and require moist well drained soil of moderate fertility.Even if you don't want to grow them as a vegetable they have a good strong form which warrants their inclusion as a decorative element in a flower garden. The purple headed variety 'Violetto' is worth seeking out for its vibrant colour. Propagation is usually from seed or by removing small plants or suckers from around a mature plant. The pests I have encountered in growing them are the root mealy bug which congregates just below the soil surface and from black aphids on the backs of leaves. The mealy bug will often weaken the plant until it appears wilted and in need of water.Leaf miner is also an occasional problem and shows up as dry blistered patches on the leaf surface. Pests can often be avoided when the plants are not put under any water stress and are supplied with a well balanced fertilizer during their growing season. I like to pick them at the "baby" stage when they are tender and require only steaming or boiling in water with some lemon slices added.

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