Annual - Biennial Plants · Plant Choices

Carline Thistle – Lesley Edmondson

My name is Lesley Edmondson and I recently had two paintings, (Carline thistle and Autumn gentian), in the ABBA exhibition, which was wonderful to be a part of.


My painting of Carline thistle was at first a joy and then somewhat a toil to paint, just because I had to keep climbing UP the hill behind our home to collect, photo and sketch the thistle, keeps you fit though. Usually all we see of the thistle are the old flower heads, which last through winter and into the following year. I know that the plant is biennial but must be temperamental here. Also at the time I was undecided whether or not to include its enormous tap root, but decided against it, the root would have really dominated and I wanted to show the flower-heads by looking directly on to them.

My workroom is tiny, I don’t call it a studio, that would be giving it a status it doesn’t really deserve.
Natural light is very important and I only use watercolour paints, and sable brushes. Windsor and Newton Series 7, 000 is an absolute essential for me, unfortunately the point doesn’t last very long so it can prove expensive, I buy cheaper sable alternatives for the larger brushes.


Carline Thistle, Carlina vulgaris  plant portrait

The Carline Thistle is biennial, monocarpic, plant of dry, chalk, grassland. It thus dies after flowering. The species itself is relatively common in its habitat sending its large tap root deep into the calcareous soils and rocks on which it grows. It can grow to 0.5m and flower are seen from July to September but because of the distinctive brown and golden flowerheads they are often mistaken for a thistle that has gone to seed.

The flowers are a nectar source for a wide range of bees, butterflies and moths.  However, in conditions with few pollinators on the wing the flowers can self pollinate. The seeds are dispersed by the wind.

Apparently the flower heads can be eaten in a similar way to artichokes…all sounds a bit fiddley to me!


At the moment I am working on a painting of red and white clover, our so called lawn is full of the latter!


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