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Artichoked and the desperate need to grow plants

choke

Artichoke or thistle? Shit! I can’t remember.

This is the most horrible time of the year: Football is over and it is too cold to garden. There is at least 12-15″ of snow on the ground. But that is about to change, in a big, warm and wonderful way. Except for the flooding. Ah, spring in the Midwest!

My antidote to winter, which can last until May some years, is to start artichokes, although I’ve never started them so late. If they sprout, I’ll post a photo. I know I should put more effort into this, but I find I don’t have the energy or motivation. I feel quite knackered. Starting the seeds (putting one seed in one little pot, and covering the watered tray with saran wrap) seems to be all I have in me this year. I should probably bottom heat. At least I made room for them in the one west facing window of the house. They should feel lucky. All the other plants want to be there, hanging with the limequat.

The star of this show is Imperial Star, an F1 that works really well as an annual thistle, unlike…um…every other thistle I’ve tried and failed with. Heirloom artichoke…hahahaha. The closest I’ve ever gotten to one of those outside of upscale markets was my cousin’s stamp pad. She thought I was crazy with the purple artichoke. Now, she knows I am crazy about the purple artichoke (Violetta), but that it’s an unrequited love.

So, good old Imperial Star-after they germinate (if they germinate–why am I so not enthused about this? Oh, because I think I’m batting 0.133 in the artichoke leagues), I’ll throw their little hairy seedling arses outside to vernalize–a fake bitchslapping by Mother Nature to make them think they are actually undergoing winter. If they were exposed to real Indiana winter, like this one, they’d be dead. 

After I have seedlings, which I usually get, sometime at the end of March, I’ll take them over to Lisa’s coldframe, and see how it goes. Getting seedlings is the easy part. Growing the plants–not so hard. But getting actual chokes? So much can go wrong between now and then. It boggles the mind. Will Mr. Handsome eat them? Will I forget about them? Will they be vernalized enough? Don’t I have something better to worry about? Yes, of course I do. But this is enjoyable worry–Worry with very little skin in the game. And, if I do get seedlings, and, if they vernalize, maybe, just maybe, I’ll put it where I’m fairly sure my dahlias didn’t overwinter, and give it a go for perennial artichokes. I just hope I don’t forget and accidentally nuke that “thistle”…it happens sometimes. 

The artichoke, even when it doesn’t yield chokes, is such a wickedly beautiful plant in the garden. And it looks like thistle. ‘Cuz it is. It reminds me of acanthus, another thorny leaved plant that I love, and rewards my love with wounds and blood loss. Maybe I should switch to Stachys? I’d definitely lose less blood over it.

All this mollycoddling of this plant is infuriating because it’s cousin is the the thistle–the most pernicious weed I’ve ever locked trichomes with. And lose to. There is something sad about being outsmarted by a plant. Repeatedly. And to bear the wounds from these failures. So, I have one plant I have to trick, mollycoddle, placate and cajole to grow–and its cousin, that I seem unable to kill. It simply isn’t fair…However, this isn’t about destination: Artichoke. It’s about the trip. And the desperate need to grow plants. 

And a child who really, really, really wants artichokes.