Day lily petal hailed to the ground

Yesterday I returned home just after a hail had passed. It was larger hail than I normally get, and a lot of them. I grabbed the camera, the injured day lily petal was beautifully resting in the hails.

Garlic and hail

The garlic suffered no damage to the leaves. Just had a winterly look 🙂

Artichoke leaf with hail damage

The large artichoke leaves got a lot of holes in them. Still, I don’t expect it’ll influence the harvest.

Lettuce with hail damage

The lettuce probably had the worst damage to their fragile leaves. Plants are still young, and new leaved will grow perfect. Slugs are a greater threat to them.

Melon seedling and hail

I’m most troubled by the few melon seedlings. I sowed the melons on 5th. of June, with a perfect warm and sunny weather forecast. The forecast was wrong, weather cold, and indoor we had to heat the house and dress warmly. The very few seedling I found cuddled with ice balls! If I harvest any outdoor melons this year, it’s a small miracle. And if they have useful seeds, my melon breeding work is doing better than I could hope for. Probably just a dream.

Spruce and hail

Decorative they were, the hails by the sheared Norway spruce.
All in all a great experience of weather and garden.

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Artichoke Cynara scolymus Serridslevgaard

Now it is finally thaw. The snow has melted for two days, giving me an opportunity to look for some of the plants in the garden.
Have they survived the frost? In January and February, I have been quite calm. It is usually the sun in March, which burns my plants to death when the evergreen stands with frozen roots. These day I keep an eye on where the sun hits evergreens. Are there any plants to shade from the sun through the month of March?

Artichoke Serridslevgaard looks fine inside its little tunnel. But has the heart been damaged by frost, I shall not see it until later, when the leaves rot from the bottom. However, I have no reason to be pessimistic. The snow has lain in 2 ½ months, but it has not been extremely cold and the snow has isolated, so the ground has probably not been colder than in average winters.

Chusan palm Trachycarpus fortunei

The Chusan palm does not look good. Again this year, much of the foliage from last summer is damaged. I’ve got a sensitive individual? As long as the heart survives, the entire palm will survive.

Chusan Palm in Snow
Same Chusan palm Trachycarpus fortunei one month ago

Note that the snow has covered the palm hearts. The heart is the point at the top of the stem from where the leaves extends.

Kale Brassica napus Red Russian

My Red Russian kale has just today poked head up through the snow. It is a long time since I saw it last. It looks a bit weathered, but if I will not harvest more leaves from it, I’ll still get some tasty flowers shoots. Flower shoots I enjoy, for me it is the main reason to grow a little cabbage in my small garden. They come early, before there is much else to pick the garden. They can be prepared quickly in a little oil in a frying pan and taste fantastic. My favourite is stir fried with scallops and baby bulbs of bronze fennel.

Bronze fennel Foeniculum vulgare

Bronze Fennel has grown below the snow. If we get a couple of weeks plus degrees, I’ll start to picking some of the baby fennel bulbs. Taste of individual bronze fennel plant vary. The plant in the picture is my favourite, it tastes sweeter than the other bronze fennels I have.

In the calendar, winter says goodbye – but meteorologists promises more snow in the coming week!

Good artichoke seeds left, right the quality I had in former years

This year I harvest artichoke seeds of a superior quality, compared to my normal harvest. The seeds are hard with a smooth surface, and of a darker shade than usual. Normally the germination of my artichoke seeds are very low, but still allowing to grow a few plants. From this years seeds I expect a much higher germination rate, as seeds are obviously better ripened. I also harvested more seeds than usual, a little more than 150 seeds of the best quality. The mother plant is the old danish Serridslevgaard, very rare and difficult to obtain, but every seed growing will be its own new variety. I expect a broad variation in the seedlings. Most of them will probably be inferior to their mother, but with some luck a few better plants might appear. The mother plant is in the elite when it comes to hardiness, many of the seedlings are likely to inherit this trace – but not all.

The inferior seeds to the right in the picture are of a lighter color. A nail on the surface of the seed shell let you feel the difference. Inferior seeds are not slippery like a ripe filbert nut, but gives resistance to moving the nail along the shell.

How come the artichoke seeds developed so well this year? I believe it’s due to the warm unusually dry late summer we had on Amager, my island.

Merete and Ejner in their wonderfull kitchen garden

Bringing a few things to Merete and Ejner, I was invited to see their lovely kitchen garden. It is early in the season, but there are allready rows of tiny sprouting vegetables. Pea, and …. OK, I don’t exactly recognize the tiny sprouts by looking at the photo, but there are a variability of crops and no weed. The strong leafy row in front is black salsify not to be missed, and garlic grows up to the left.

The old artichokes impressed me deeply. I know the problems of getting them safely through the frosty wet winters. I have often read, that the younger plants from cuttings make it through the winter with more ease than the older individuals. Contrary, Merete and Ejner have experienced that in their garden the older plants are more likely to survive the winters than the younger plants. Therefore I saw some very old plants not move for many years. This makes me wonder how should I cultivate my own artichokes in the future.

We have exchanged artichoke clones, at I’m very excited to see the development of one of their old clones in my garden. We believe it is a ‘Green Globe’. As this is a seed propagated old line of artichokes, the name can not be fixed on a single individual. Taking cuttings from their original seed plant is cloning, and if it grows well in my garden I will continue the cloning. Then I have to ask Merete and Ejner for a name for the clone.

I allways find it exciting and inspiring to visit others gardens. Often I bring home new methods, less labour intensive than what I can find in the books or on the web. Particularly when it comes to more rare vegetables like artichokes or garlics in my area. Thanks for an artichoke talk!

Merete is author of the danish blog “Vild med have“. It is very visual, based on photos, I think a lot of readers here can enjoy it, go visit it!

Artichoke flower

An artichoke head was cut a bit late, and then waited a while for the chef – look up what happened!

No water, but allready in flower for many days, I guess it’ll slowly transform to an eternity flower.

Artichokes ready for seed harvest

Artichokes for seed are always exciting. Do they contain a lot of seeds? Potentially yes – but! More contain only few seeds, and even more no seeds at all.

Artichoke pappus

At the very first touch to the dry artichoke head you realise it is a thistle. You rapidly learn to break them open without getting thorns into your skin. Being a thistle and a relative of dandelion, the seeds are connected to the pappus, unfolding like a parachute to spread the seed by the wind. Artichoke seeds are large, I really don’t think it works that way anymore. The original wild artichoke probably had smaller seeds, allowing the wind to grab the pappus and take the seeds up in the air.

Artichoke seeds naturel

Artichoke seeds must be large and resist a light pressure. There are only few large seeds, and most I discard at once due to softness when pressed between my fingers.

Artichoke seed harvest of the year

Out of six artichoke heads, I only had large pressure resistant seeds from three. One had a fair amount of seeds, two others only small numbers. Not impressing. But a few of them might grow in spring, producing new plants. If any of these plants survive a couple of winters, it’s a miracle. I do hope for a miracle. But for now I willdry the seeds and store them with tender loving care.

It is all seeds from the variety ‘Herrgård’. My other varieties are still young in my garden, possibly the reason they didn’t set seeds at all.

Artichoke ‘Herrgård’ Cynara scolymus

Today I harvested the first artichoke heads. Now they rest under cold water, to let the insects escape.
I do not have the heart to harvest the heads every year, since the flowers are incredible beautiful.

H.C. Andersen wrote about artichoke in the fairytale “The Gardener and the Noble Family”, where he call it “The lotus of Hindustan”.

Left: My own variety (unnamed), middle and right ‘Herrgård’

Artichokes and peeled stem after boiling

Boiled artichokes and stem in the boiling water, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic and wine. Now I will leave it it in the fridge for 1-3 days.

‘Herrgård’ is an old heirloom, could very well be the one H.C. Andersen knew from the gardens of danish manorhouses.

More on artichoke

Artichoke ‘Herrgård’ Cynara scolymus

Artichoke is not reliable to overwinter in Denmark. Different varieties are clearly more or less hardy. One of the most hardy is ‘Herrgård’, an old heirloom from Scania (southern Sweden). It is said to have been in culture for centuries in gardens of the aristocracy in Scania and Denmark. ‘Herrgård’ is probably identical to the danish ‘Serridslevgaard’, but I can’t tell for sure, as I havn’t got hold on the latter. Do you grow it dear reader, please let me have a cutting 🙂

Many things have been written about the art of overwintering artichokes. Often by experts who never grew artichokes themselfes. Since I’ve overwintered my artichoke the last five years, I’m thus not an expert. I do it from a very simple theory. I believe moisture in the heart of the artichoke kills it at lower temperatures, and only at much lower temperatures will the temperature itselv kill the artichoke. Therefore I cover my artichokes with glass, with an inclination and earth touch towards west, as most wind and rain comes from that direction. The cracked pot is to keep down the glass in stormy weather. In case of severe frost I cover the glass and surroundings in snow, making an insulated hive for the artichoke. When snow melts, the glass leads water away from the heart.

In autumn i pot cuttings and store in the greenhouse as a sofecopy. I still didn’t have a truely cold winter on top of my artichokes. When that comes, with daytemperatures of -20 Celcius, I must be very carefull to add suficient insulation.