Artichokes are something I didn’t know much about until last year – although I’ve seen them for sale in grocery stores back in North America, I had no clue that they were produced from a big plant that is actually a thistle. When I moved into this house a year and a half ago, the owner pointed out a large plant with big silvery green foliage and suggested that no matter what I do with garden, that I keep this, and told me it was an artichoke. There’s actually three of them, side by side.
Against the large rose plants and geraniums, the large leaves made a very nice contrast. But I did not know what these plants would produce until last autumn, when they started to produce large buds. At that point, I did some research to figure out when I should harvest them for food. It turns out they can be a lot of work, peeling away the layers to get down into the edible parts, but they were tasty.
I then discovered that after they have produced, the artichoke leaves and stem should be cut way back – and you might get two harvests in a year. I followed the instructions of various artichoke experts I came across, and sure enough, the leaves grew back and this year, we have an earlier crop. But they also make for a dazzling display when simply left to flower.
The flowers are quite large, and as you can see from the photo above, one single flower has plenty of space from multiple bees and insects feeding from it at any given time. Later in the afternoon, I saw about a dozen honey bees walking through the flower, and quite a few other insects attracted to the artichoke’s nectar.
While not totally in focus, in the photo below, if you look hard enough you’ll see a bee flying into the artichoke flower, which is surrounded by buds that have not yet flowered.