Want a plant that is different, pretty and yummy? Try artichokes

Artichoke-ImperialStar from WAtleeBurpee
Artichoke ‘Imperial Star’. Photo courtesy of W. Atlee Burpee

by Connie Oswald Stofko

If you want to try something different in your spring garden this year, the folks at Lockwood’s Greenhouses suggest the artichoke.

If you like to cook and eat artichokes, you’ll naturally be drawn to this plant, but it’s interesting in several ways to gardeners.

First, it gets beautiful gray-green foliage, making it a wonderful accent plant, said Teresa Buchanan, garden center manager. You can enjoy it as a lovely addition to your flower bed. The plant is in the thistle family and it gets a pretty purple or blue flower.

However, this is a case of not being able to have your cake and eat it, too. Unlike plants such as tomato or squash, which produce a flower from which the fruit develops, the artichoke does it the other way around. The artichoke fruit develops first, then the flower is produced from the fruit. If you want to harvest the artichokes, you have to pick them before the flowers form.

“Or you can keep the flower and enjoy the whole life cycle,” Buchanan said.

If you’re trying to fill up space in a new garden, the artichoke is a good choice. It gets really big–It’s recommended that you plant them five feet apart.

“You have to have room for them,” noted Jill Kisker, grower at Lockwood’s.

Lockwood’s will have the plants ready in the spring; they can be planted outdoors after danger of frost has passed (usually Memorial Day weekend).

Lockwood’s, located at 4484 Clark St., Hamburg, is now open in the back glass greenhouses for customers who want houseplants, gift cards, tart cherry juice and bird food. Stop by during the day Monday through Friday or give them a call at 649-4684 so they know you are coming.

They will reopen the retail store on March 14.

10 Comments on “Want a plant that is different, pretty and yummy? Try artichokes

  1. I planted two of them in mid May, but they never developed fruit or flowers. I had them in composted soil in the veggie patch. Wonder why they only had leaves. I was told they are perennial. I will see if they come back.

  2. I saw large artichokes growing in Oregon and also at Williamsburg. They are a large member of the thistle family, which you can tell by studying the bud and flower. They are gorgeous in full bloom, or else you want to eat them!

  3. I didn’t think we had a long enough growing season in WNY to plant artichokes. If we did, my entire yard would be full of them!!! I was told years ago (by the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service) that Long Island is the only area of New York State with a enough time. I believe that California grows the majority of the country’s artichokes. I did try them once but like Kirsten, they never developed.

  4. In order to get the fruit on artichokes they need to have an early cooling period in the seedling stage. We will put them in a cool house about 45 degrees for around 4 to 6 weeks. This should encourage them to set bud to develop into fruit later in the cycle. We do grow the plants mostly for the architectural interest of the foliage, but why not try to have the flowers, too? If it doesn’t bloom, the plant is still worth having.

  5. 1. I have started artichoke plants indoors from seed. In cooler summers they did not form buds so I covered the plants with leaves at the end of the season and placed a basket over them. They produced the artichokes the next summer.
    2. In warm summers I get artichokes the same season.
    3. We eat the immature flower buds. If we choose not to eat them they will mature into flowers. We are NOT eating the fruit! A fruit is a ripened ovary containing seeds. Flower formation is necessary for fruit formation.

  6. I thought it might be helpful to share that I grew Violet de Provence artichokes from Baker’s Heirloom seeds. The growing period is shorter . Plus it’s pretty!

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