Globe thistle (Echinops sphaerocephalus) shares its name with a cuter-than-cute hedgehog from Madagascar (Echinops telfairi) because of their uncanny resemblance but, by the light of a recent super moon, I thought the plant looked very nearly like a teeny, tiny exploding planet. Almost, but not quite. Planetary explosions must be massively messy and the head of a globe thistle has to be the poster child for all that’s amazingly organized in the plant world with its perfectly spherical shape and floral pattern much like a triodetic dome. Hello, Ontario Place Cinesphere.
Scientists have figured out that many blossoms, some vegetables, pinecones and tree branches follow the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden Mean as a way of growing efficiently. I like to think there’s something more to it than that. Much has been written about how the mathematical lives of plants reflect the precise elegance of seashells, spiral galaxies and hurricanes.
The thistles topping the spiny, three-foot-tall stems on our plants always seem to appear when we’re not looking, some time in late spring, thus adding to the whole mystery of the thing. By mid-summer, the spiky balls start slowly sprouting tiny blue flowers like a fireworks display blowing up in very slow motion. Although plant guides will tell you that globe thistles prefer open spaces in full sunlight, ours is doing just fine with a few hours of sun each day and it gamely appears every year, surrounded by hostas, shoulder to shoulder with a hydrangea.
Should you want to start your own garden constellation, try planting some globe thistles in full sun with a variety of equally cosmic alliums and underplant the lot with some ornamental grasses for added froth and movement.