Knautia macedonica has been hugely fashionable for years and is likely to remain so for many more. 'Melton Pastels' is a great, densely flowering border plant, with strong stalks of pin cushion flowers in shades of pink, cherry red, mauve and purple.
The tall wiry flower-bearing stems grow to around 100 to 120cm (36 to 48in) in height. They make excellent cut flowers are good for the middle of the border, giving a succession of blooms from summer right through till autumn. The plants will flower from May to July and right on to the last frost if deadheaded.
The plant spreads out from a central rootstock into a broad, chalice-shaped bush, each shoot branching again and again to form a broad wiry network of stems. Every shoot and side-shoot terminates in a flower, of which, established plants produce literally hundreds of blooms in one season. Individual pompoms last no longer than a fortnight before turning into spherical seed-heads of magical symmetry.
In common with all scabious, this is an important wildlife plant, providing nectar for hoverflies, bees and butterflies. Beautiful next to silver foliage and a wonderful companion to old-fashioned roses. Try a group planting with ornamental grasses for striking contrast.
Pronounced 'naughtier,' this is an easy to grow, strikingly beautiful plant that, thankfully doesn't live up to its name.
Sowing: Sow in late winter to spring or sow in autumn.
Sow at maximum temperatures of 5°C (41°F) Seeds can be sown indoors or sown outdoors directly where they are to flower. The seeds need a touch of cold to germinate, if temperatures outdoors are too high, you can be artificially simulate this by placing the seeds in a damp paper towel in a ziplock bag and placing in the fridge for around three or four weeks. Fridges are usually set at 4°C (39°F) – a very useful temperature!
Surface sow into pots containing well draining seed compost (John Innes or similar). or sow directly outdoors, barely cover the seeds or cover very lightly with grit. Make sure that the compost is kept slightly moist but not wet. Seeds generally germinate 2 to 3 weeks after sowing, but can occasionally be slow and erratic.
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 (5 to 6in), if they are to stay in containers. Acclimatise young plants to outdoor conditions before planting out. Space the plants 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) apart.
Knautia needs a sunny position to thrive. It seems to enjoy both acid and alkaline soils. Decent drainage is essential but add plenty of humus on thin, dry soils to retain moisture. Support with twiggy pea sticks or brushwood well before the flowers appear. In spring fertilise moderately. Don't fertilise after mid September.
Gardening experts advocate dead-heading to prolong summer flowering. However, in the case of Knautia this is both unnecessary and unwise. The seed heads actually enhance the look of it and provide food for birds. Deprive the birds of one or two seed heads in order to raise new plants.
In a good growing season clumps of Knautia become so vast - even bullying other plants in late summer that it's tempting to shear them right down and let them start again. A better idea is to prune some of the oldest stems back to the ground, leaving later ones intact. When the newer stems start to flower, take out more to make room for them. This careful editing is a bit of a fiddle but worth it, since it ensures that supplies of flowers are constantly maintained. To help prevent powdery mildew, mulch with well rotted manure or compost in autumn and keep well watered.
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.
Knautia macedonica is found throughout Central Europe, the Caucasus, Iran to Central Asia and Siberia. It is a member of the scabious or teasel family, Dipsacaceae.
Pronounced NOT-ee-ah mass-eh-DON-ih-kah, the genus name is named after a 17th Century Saxon botanist, Dr. Christopher Knaut (1638-1694).
The species name is derived from the country located in the central Balkan peninsula in Southeast Europe. The Republic of Macedonia is one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia, from which it declared independence in 1991.
It used to be known as Scabiosa rumelica and doubtless has many regional names throughout its native Central Europe where, in the manner of its relative Scabiosa arvensis, the species has been valued since medieval times as a culinary & medicinal herb gathered from the wild.
Some plants commonly known as scabious are classified in related genera such as Cephalaria, Scabiosa and Succisa. This common name derives from the word scabies, which comes from the Latin word scabere meaning “to scratch". In medieval times species of scabious 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’ is also shared with Scabiosa. It derives from the fact that its long, needle-like pistils resemble pins sticking into a pincushion.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 25 Seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 220 seeds / gram Family Dipsacaceae Genus Knautia Species macedonica Cultivar Melton Pastels Synonym Scabiosa macedonica, Scabiosa lyrophylla
Previously called Scabiosa rumelica
Common Name Macedonian scabious. Also marketed as 'Watercolours' Other Common Names Pincushion Flower Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers Deep Crimson, pincushion shaped flowers. Natural Flower Time Late spring to autumn, June to September Height 60 to 70cm (24 to 28in) Spread 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) Position Part shade preferred but will grow in full sun. Soil Well-drained. Enjoys both acid and alkaline soils. Time to Sow Sow in late winter to spring or sow in autumn.