Sunday, August 1, 2010

Plant of the Month, July 2010: Globe Thistle

I know I'm posting a day late, but I really wanted to squeeze in this plant of the month for July.  This plant is about 6 feet tall and splendid in my garden for about a month in the middle of the summer.  The Globe Thistle (Echinops exaltatus) provides a striking contrast to the northern sea oats and dwarf English lavender in the front perennial bed of my urban garden.  The perfect globe-shaped flowers are over two and a half inches across and float above the rest of the plants like powder blue champagne bubbles.  The flowers can reach to six feet in the air on my well-established clumps, and the classic deeply-divided, spiky foliage of the thistle is a bold textural contrast to the finer textures of its neighboring plants.
The Globe thistle is a robust plant that prefers full sun and can grow just about anywhere in the western United States.  It will do best in well-drained soil with moderate water, but established clumps will tolerate fairly dry conditions.  I only have to water mine about four or five times a year, and I have NEVER fertilized it.  It always makes me happy to see that the local honey bees seem to be very fond of the flowers.

If you decide to grow the Globe thistle, you should reduce the clump at least every second year to keep it from getting too big.  The good news is that every time you reduce the clump, you get more starts of plants to give away to your friends!

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