Cephalaria gigantea is one of those plants that prove that you can get maximum height into the border without using overbearing large plants. The stout, upright stems are tall but airy and "see-through" arising from a rosette of divided leaves. The very pretty pale butter-yellow scabious shape flowers can reach 180cm (6ft) when in flower.
This gentle giant has an informal look that is perfect for looser planting styles and just right for a cottage garden. Use it as you would Verbena bonariensis planted at the back of a mixed or herbaceous border, or combine it with taller ornamental grasses in a prairie-style style setting.
This exceptional specimen also looks good among large shrubs or trees in a mixed border, or in a light woodland clearing. In a well sheltered location it is self supporting, but in windier gardens it benefits from some support. The aromatic foliage, anise-scented, is deeply cut and impressive.
This easy-going perennial flowers in June to the end July. It will grow in most soils but prefers rich, moist, well-drained soil, it can be grown in full sun or part shade.
To create a more compact and bushier specimen, simply pinch back in May or June. Chop it to the base when it starts to look tatty as it often repeats in September if cut back after first flush. The plants have a tendency to self-seed if not dead-headed regularly.
The flowers are an attractive nectar source for both bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects, and are ideal for use as a cut flower.
Sowing: Late winter to autumn
Sow January to March for flowering from June onwards, or April to August for flowering the following year.
Fill trays or pots with good, well draining seed compost (John Innes or similar). Stand the pots in water to moisten then drain. Sow 1/16 inch (1.5mm) deep. Cover seed lightly with vermiculite after sowing as they need light for germination.
Place the container in a propagator or seal in a polythene bag after sowing to keep the moisture constant. Place in a warm place to maintain an optimum temperature of around 18 to 21°C (65-70°F)
Make sure that the compost is kept slightly moist but not wet. Avoid direct sunlight by shading seeds after sowing. Germinates in 2 to 3 weeks at 18 to 21°C (65 to 70°F)
Prick out seedlings when large enough to handle into 9-10cm (4in) pots after 4 weeks. Grow on at 10°C (50°F) Use larger pots, 13 to 15cm per plant, if they are to stay in containers. Acclimatise young plants to outdoor conditions before planting out. Space the plants 30 to 60cm (12 to 24in) apart.
All scabious prefer well-drained soil and a sunny position. They dislike cold, wet winters. A top dressing of grit in October will aid surface drainage. However they also hate hot, humid weather and do best in temperate conditions. In spring fertilise moderately. Don't fertilise after mid September.
If the planting area is not sheltered, stake to keep the stems upright. Deadheading encourages plants to flower on and on. But many scabious (and related genera) set seed prolifically if left. Seeds can be collected in autumn, dried and sown the following spring without losing viability. Young plants flower most freely so divide and replant each spring but only once the plant has begun to grow again.
Cut flower stems can be harvested, when the flower show colour. Put the stems in warm water immediately.
Vase life: 8 to 10 days. Cold storage is not recommended. Avoid the formation of seedpods in order to encourage the following flowering. Over the year harvest 20 stems per plant.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Borders and Beds. Butterflies and Bees.
Cephalaria gigantea is native to southern Europe, western and central Asia, and northern and southern Africa.
Cephalaria is a genus of about 65 species of flowering plants in the family Dipsacaceae,
Some species are grown as ornamental plants in gardens; the most popular species is C. gigantea, a perennial species from the Caucasus growing to 2 metres tall, valued for its strong erect growth with dark green foliage and yellow flowers.
The genus name Cephalaria is taken from the Greek kephale , meaning "head," and the suffix alaria, meaning "with appendaged wings" refers to the large outer petals of the blooms.
The species name "gigantea" simply means "giant" and refers to the large size of the flower.
The common name of scabious derives from the word scabies, which comes from the Latin word scabere meaning “to scratch". In medieval times species of scabious the plants were believed to relieve the itch of scabies and other afflictions of the skin including sores caused by the Bubonic Plague. In the 17 century Nicholas Culpepper prescribed its root as an ointment for the cure of wounds, swollen throats, snake-bite and the plague.
The common name of 'Pincushion flower’ derives from the fact that its long, needle-like pistils resemble pins sticking into a pincushion. Also known as the Giant Scabious however some plants commonly known as scabious are currently classified in related genera such as Scabiosa Knautia and Succisa.
Cephalaria gigantea also has a number of synonyms: Cephalaria caucasica, Cephalaria tatarica hort, Cephalaria dipsacoides, Scabiosa gigantea and Scabiosa tatarica
|Average Seed Count||20 Seeds|
|Synonym||Cephalaria caucasica, Cephalaria tatarica hort, Cephalaria dipsacoides
Scabiosa gigantea, Scabiosa tatarica
|Common Name||Giant Scabious, Caucasian scabious|
|Other Common Names||Perennial Pin Cushion.|
|Hardy||Hardy to below -18°C (0°F)|
|Flowers||Pale butter-yellow scabious shape flowers|
|Natural Flower Time||Early summer to early autumn (June to September)|
|Height||180 to 210cm (6 to 6½ft)|
|Position||Full Sun or Partial Shade.|
|Soil||Well-drained. Does best in slightly alkaline soils.|