This spiny-flowered botanical is perfect for both fresh and dried
by Steven W. Brown, AIFD
Photo courtesy of California
Cut Flower Commission
1 A THISTLE. Pronounced “EK-in-ops,”
these hardy perennials are commonly known as globe thistles. The plants
have deeply divided, spiny leaves, which are gray-green above and fuzzy
and white beneath. The blossoms are compact round heads of tiny pale
blue or grayish-white flowers, resembling thistles. The sphere-shaped
flower heads are up to 2 inches in diameter.
2 A EUROPEAN NATIVE. Globe thistles
have roots in the old world and are found in western Asia and
southeastern Europe, from Russia to southern France, Spain and the Czech
and Slovak Republics. They also are native to some of the mountainous
areas of tropical Africa.
3 FROM THE DAISY FAMILY. Globe
thistles are members of the Asteraceae, or Compositae, family. This
family is one of the largest families cultivated for cut flower and food
crops. Close relatives include sunflowers, daisies, marigolds,
chrysanthemums, Gerberas, Dahlias, Zinnias and lettuce.
4 GREEK SPEAK. Echinops stems from
the Greek words “echinos,” which means “sea urchin” or “hedgehog,” and
“ops” (appearance), referring to the spiny flower heads.
5 A GLOBAL EFFECT. The steely blue
color of globe thistles’ blossoms intensifies at lower temperatures.
‘Taplow Blue’ is a popular cultivar with intense blue flower heads. The
repeat-blooming ‘Veitch’s Blue’ is especially desirable for cut flower
gardens. Bumblebees, moths and butterflies find the flowers
6 HALFWAY SHOPPING. Purchase globe
thistles when approximately 50 percent of the flowers are open and at
the peak of blue. Watch for any signs of browning or mold in the
bunches, and avoid bunches that have discolored or rotted stems.
7 AROUND SUMMER. Globe thistles are
available from about May through October from Holland and year-round
from California. Fresh, they will last for seven to 25 days. Dry, they
can last for years.
8 CUT AND DIP. Process globe
thistles by removing their packaging as soon as they arrive in the
store. Remove any foliage that would fall below water levels. Recut the
stems, and dip or place them into a hydration solution following the
directions on the package label. Place the flowers into clean vases with
properly prepared fresh flower-food solution. Place flowers into a
floral cooler for at least two hours to hydrate before selling or
designing with them.
9 FRESH AND DRY. Globe thistles can
be used fresh or dried. They are suitable for drying if they are
harvested before fully blooming. To dry them, hang them upside down in a
dry, hot area. The dried flowers can be sprayed with sealant, lacquer,
shellac or paint.
10 DANGER, DANGER! Soft hands and
feet can be cut by the leaves and macelike flower heads; keep them off
the floor, and wear protective shoes and gloves when handling globe
Steven W. Brown, AIFD, is a professor and department chair of
horticulture and floristry at City College of San Francisco with 26
years of consulting and educational experience in the floral industry.
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