A prickly thistle

Last August I planted an apple tree in the school garden. Since then I’ve watched with dismay as all the branches have slowly been ripped off. I don’t think the children are doing this to deliberately destroy the tree. It’s just that they’re playing there and it gets knocked about and they grab onto it as part of their play. There’s no play equipment in the playground so they play in the gardens.

This morning I couldn’t bear it any longer and so I dug up the tree and planted it in my garden at home. It may already be too late as it’s mostly just a trunk now. I hope it survives. Now I’m thinking something prickly for the school garden is the way to go. Maybe a thistle? Did you know that the thistle is the national flower of Scotland? Most people think of the thistle as a weed but they produce some attractive flowers like this blue one:


Source: http://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/plant-finder/echinops-ritro-veitchs-blue/

I was thinking of getting some of those. They’re called Veitch’s Blue. It’s either that or a cactus. Is that a good idea?

5 thoughts on “A prickly thistle”

  1. I like the cultivated thistles like the Veitch’s Blue (love the silver stems!) but having gotten my arm hooked by a huge wild one, I’m not the species’ biggest fan. But clearly you are sending a message to the children by planting thorny things in a school garden! Are they really so destructive? The school ought to put out some money for a jungle gym and a set of swings.

    1. Yes the school needs to put in play equipment but I’ve already been down that road and was not successful. A year or so ago myself and a few other mums began the process of getting lottery funding to put in play equipment. We spent a lot of time taking measurements and getting quotes for equipment only to have the plan shut down by the school. I found the whole thing incredibly frustrating. It’s a Victorian school and the playground looks more like an outdoor exercise area at a prison than a school playground but this is apparently the norm here. It’s a stark contrast to what I’m used to because schools in Australia and New Zealand have everything – monkey bars, slides, swings, sand pits ….

    2. I also meant to add that I planted a conifer in place of the apple tree yesterday afternoon. A conifer doesn’t have branches sticking out that they can easily pull off so hopefully it will survive. But there is another garden bed that they regularly walk on. I was thinking of thistles for that one but I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt. Maybe a hedge around the border would be better?

      1. How odd the school in your area doesn’t want equipment for its playground! I wonder if it’s because of concerns about liability, which is a real thing in the US where lawsuits are too common. Most American public schools however would leap at the chance to get new playground equipment, since it makes the school look good, and students who get a good workout during recess are usually easier to teach. (So goes the theory: though I think recess is as good for the exhausted teachers as they are for the children.)

        A short hedge might work, similar to a medieval knot garden, or a foot-high fence. In New York they use these little fences made either of metal or wood to protect sidewalk trees and flower beds from being trampled or used for “doggie toilets.” I don’t know if that’s in your budget or if you want to put that much work into protecting the beds. I can see where you might want to plant the Scottish national flower in the garden, however. Would cactus survive your wet, cold winters? Our prickly pear in the backyard is looking a bit sad after our record rainstorms and subfreezing temperatures this winter! 🙂

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