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The Cardoon - Cynara cardunculus is a fantastically bold and architecturally ornamental plant which was an absolute favourite with  gardeners from the the Victorian age.  The foliage is large, serrated and silver and presents an imposing border plant for most of the year.

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While they can still be found in some larger and specialist plant retailers, availability for the Cardoon can be a little sparse. However if you have your heart set on growing one then they are easily propagated from seed.

Cardoon seeds are best sown from February to March. Fill a modular seed with a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting' and gently compress. Place one seed per module and approximately 3mm deep.

Gently water and allow the excess to drain away before planing inside a heated propagator at approximately 18-20 degrees Celsius. Alternatively seal the tray inside a clear polythene bag and place in a warm bright room on the windowsill. Avoid windows that receive direct sunlight as this can scorch and overheat the seedlings as well as drying out the compost.

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Once the seedlings begin to emerge you can remove the tray from the propagator or bag. When the roots have established in the module, carefully pop the module out and pot on into 3-4 inch pots.

Once the threat of late frosts have passed harden off the seedlings before planting them outside into their final position.

If you miss the early spring sowing period then you can also direct sow during mid-May. If you are planting multiple plants together the make sure that the are planted at least 4-6 ft apart.

The Cardoon should be grown in a sheltered, sunny position in a fertile, well-drained soil. Over the winter, cut the stems down to about 50 cm. Dig in plenty or well-rotted manure around the roots and then cover with a  dry mulch of straw or bracken. Come the spring the dry mulch can be removed one the threat of late frost have passed.