Maybe I’ve been watching too much Outlander.  I’ve let thistles colonize a section of the garden.

Granted, it’s an underutilized site at the moment. Last year I tore out about 8 Ilex glabra that were supposed to be ‘Shamrock’, which only grow 3-4 ft, but were in fact the genus which grow to at least 5 ft wide and 8 ft high and were too wide, too tall and too diseased so out they came. I am planning on a replanting this fall. In the meantime, it remains unplanted, but not non-planted. No unplanted area in a garden remains unplanted for long…some plant will recognize the opportunity and move in, and so far it has been the  thistles.


I don’t mind them having moved in. I’ve always liked thistles. They have rugged personalities and are often featured in fairy tales, two traits I like. And there is the fact that many species of butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and moths feed on them. The other fact is that Arkansas and Iowa list the entire  Cirsium genus as noxious weeds. But Massachusetts is far away from both of those states, so maybe here thistle is just a regular weed, not a noxious one.

Either way, the thistles are here to stay for this year. They’ve gotten so big – over 6 feet tall! – and thorny I would need a hazmat suit to get rid of them. And they are an interesting bloom. I’m all about pretty in the garden.

9 thoughts on “Thistles

    1. Yes, my research shows that they are aggressive and will take over a meadow. I have about 5 which seems like a manageable number. I’ve determined they are not native and so are weeds. Out they come in September


  1. Ha! I spent extensive time yesterday looking at various thistles to add here after seeing a photo of a garden on instagram in which they were prominently featured. Weed or not the pollinators love them and the rabbits dont. But you are talking to someone who just spent 6 weeks getting a pokeweed seed (phytolacca americana ‘ Sunny side up’ ) to germinate lol

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  2. Some thistles are (sort of) desirable and can be quite ornamental, but if these are Canada thistles, don’t let them go to seed! They are the bane of my gardening existence, along with bush honeysuckle and creeping charlie.

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  3. When we lived out in the country and had young grandsons I used to take them out in the fields on thistle patrol. I, too, find thistles very attractive and birds and other creatures do make use of them, but they can really take over a field. In my new house we have an odd ‘weed’ growing next to our front porch. It is at least seven feet tall, skinny but with thistle like foliage. I think we’ll get a bloom soon and I’ll see if it is some sort of thistle. So many mysteries in the garden.

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    1. Yes, I really like them, too. Unfortunately, the ones in my garden turn out to be noxious weeds and are a pain, literally, to get rid of. Nevertheless, before I knew they were weeds I enjoyed them, as did the bees, butterflies and hopefully some birds.

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