globe artichoke
2010-05-27. The artichoke finally opens its flowers.

June 2nd, 2010
Cynara cardunculus, Artichoke

Sometimes it’s better not to do any research before impulsively buying a plant you love. What if I had read about the growing requirements of artichokes?

“While climate is a more important factor in production of tender buds than soil, artichokes are heavy feeders requiring large amounts of nitrogen and moist but well-drained soil…winter temperatures should be above freezing and summers should be cool and foggy. — How to Grow Vegetables and Fruits by the Organic Method (Rodale)

Could Austin be any less ideal for growing artichokes? My soil is dry, poorly draining black clay. Cool and foggy? Austin? I planted my artichoke in the spring of 2009, smack in the middle of our 2-year drought and just before Austin faced the summer of 67 days 100° plus temperatures. The artichoke struggled but somehow I managed to keep it alive all summer. Luckily, all I knew about growing artichokes was that someone up the street had one and it produced beautiful huge purple flowers.

In September 2009, it began raining in Austin and rained all fall, winter, and early spring. The artichoke liked that.

globe artichoke
2010-01-04. Artichoke plant just before the big freeze.

But in January, Austin got three days of freezing temperatures in a row that were unusually low for us (in the teens). I threw a sheet over the artichoke but was too busy worrying about even more tender plants to do anything else for it. It looked a bit shocked after the experience but as temperatures warmed it perked up. An afternoon of snow didn’t faze it.

globe artichoke
2010-02-23. The artichoke weathered Austin’s snow day.

A perennial, it sent up suckers, one of which I managed to remove and transplant successfully. By April 2010, the plant had doubled in size and the first bud was visible. Some bug ate it.

Soon other buds formed.

globe artichoke
2010-04-26. Artichoke bud.
For six weeks, I watched the globes get bigger and bigger. We considered eating some but as neither of us really like artichokes decided to hold out for the flowers.

globe artichoke
2010-05-11. Is it ever going to open?

On May 18th, we went on vacation. Still no flowers. When we returned a week later, the flowers had finally opened. Unfortunately, with temperatures in the 90s and no water in a week, the stems had bent to the ground under the weight of the huge flower heads. One had snapped. Talk about blooming its head off.

globe artichoke
2010-05-27. Collapse of the monster plant.

Was the artichoke worth the trouble? Oh, yeah!

globe artichoke

The flowers are impressive. Even if they are upside down. Maybe next year we’ll eat a few buds.

globe artichoke