The large, blue flowers of the Caucasian scabious were introduced into Britain in 1803 and have been a cut-flower staple for the last 150 years or more. Bred by Arthur John Golding in around 1887, ‘Goldingensis’ is still the largest and deepest shade of blue available.
The form is neat and compact, the shades are excellent and the masses of flowers are beyond belief. It received recognition, receiving the RHS Award of Garden Merit.
Growing to around 60cm (24in), the large, deep blue, flat pincushion flowers arise on strong stems from compact, low growing foliage. Hardy to below -18°C (0°F), this perennial form of Scabiosa is easy to grow and will flower in their first year from an early sowing.
These rich blue beauties never fail to bloom throughout the whole summer when sunny yellows and oranges dominate, they last well into autumn. Ideal for borders and prized as a cut flower, it has been a popular choice with both gardeners and florists. It is also immensely appreciated by both bees and butterflies.
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 to 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 to 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.
Scabiosa caucasica has long stems that initially produce one large flower. But if you snip the dying flower stem back to the lowest buds, halfway down, two slightly shorter-stemmed flowers will spring from the bud axils. 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.
Native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. The first scabious ever introduced was the small-flowered S. atropurpurea in 1591. Scabiosa caucasica was introduced into Britain in 1803 after seed collected from the Caucasus area was sent to the Hackney nurseryman George Loddiges.
Scabiosa is a genus in the family Dipsacaceae, or teasel family. Many of the species have common names that include the word scabious; however some plants commonly known as scabious are currently classified in related genera such as Cephalaria, Knautia and Succisa.
The genus name ‘Scabiosa’ 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 species name 'caucasica' refers to the plants origin in the Caucasus mountains of Europe. The main range is generally perceived to be the dividing line between Asia and Europe. The Caucasus is one of the most linguistically and culturally diverse regions on Earth.
The word Caucasus itself derives from Caucas, the purported ancestor of the North Caucasians. He was a son of Togarmah, grandson of Biblical Noah's third son Japheth.
The common name of 'Pincushion flower’ derives from the fact that its long, needle-like pistils resemble pins sticking into a pincushion.
The cultivar 'Goldingensis’ is named after its breeder Arthur John Golding who was born 26th April 1867 at Lawshall. He lived with his wife and three children at Fordham, near Newmarket and died 6th February 1958 at Fordham. Originally a bricklayer & builder, he was also a talented horticulturalist and nurseryman. He received the R.H.S. Gold Medal for his 'Goldingensis Scabious'.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 10 Seeds Family Dipsacaceae Genus Scabiosa Species caucasica Cultivar perfecta Goldingensis Common Name Caucasian scabious, Perennial Pin Cushion Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to below -18°C (0°F) Flowers Deep Blue Natural Flower Time Early summer to early autumn (June to September) Height 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) Spacing 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) Position Full Sun Soil Well-drained. Does best in slightly alkaline soils.