A perennial vegetable which is also a wonderfully architectural plant for a sunny border, Cynara scolymus is a statuesque, herbaceous perennial with an upright habit. The huge, jagged leaves are grey-green, at their best in spring and early summer. From May, the big, spiny buds can be cut, cooked and eaten. If left on the plant, they swell and open into wonderful purple thistle-like flowers, a magnet for pollinators; later, the seed-heads provide winter interest and are attractive to finches. A good structural plant for the back of a sunny border – but leave access to cut the delicious buds!