The large flowers of the Caucasian scabious have been a cut-flower staple for 150 years or more. It was introduced into Britain in 1803 after seed collected from the Caucasus was sent to the Hackney nurseryman George Loddiges. Market gardener James House, who ran a successful nursery near Bristol continued the development with a number of their own seed strains.
Scabiosa caucasica are an excellent cutting garden flower and are used extensively in modern garden design today. This perennial form of Scabiosa are very easy to grow and are extremely hardy, to below -18°C (0°F).
The grayish-green foliage features entire, lance-shaped, basal leaves and pinnately-lobed stem leaves. They are well stemmed with large flat flower heads and will flower the first year if started a good 6 to 8 weeks before transplanting outside. The center cushions of the flowers have protruding stamens resembling pins in a pincushion, hence the common name. They never fail to bloom throughout the whole summer, and last well into autumn, they are also very attractive to bees and butterflies.
The 'Perfection' series of cultivars, also known as the Perfecta series, features plants with large frilly outer petals. The flowers bloom singly on strong, stiff stems from late May through to late summer.
'Perfection Blue' also known as 'Blue Perfecta', features outer petals of lilac blue. While 'Perfection Alba' features large outer petals in white.
Growing to a height of 60cm (24in), these wonderful plants produce compact mounds of foliage and the strong stems are topped with stunning pincushion-like flowers that are packed with nectar. They make an excellent filler for a mixed border and are ideal for cutting and for drying. Cut the stems just as the flowers are opening. These silver-washed beauties shine in July, through to September, when sunny yellows and oranges usually dominate.
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 fertilize after mid September.
S. 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.
The long-lasting pincushion-shaped flowers are an essential element in flower arrangements. Cut flower stems can be harvested when the flower first shows 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.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 70 seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 55 seeds per gram Family Dipsacaceae Genus Scabiosa Species caucasica Cultivar Perfection Blue Synonym Perfecta Blue Common Name Pin Cushion, Caucasian scabious. Hardiness Hardy Perennial Hardy Hardy to below -18°C (0°F) Flowers Blue pincushion flowers Natural Flower Time Early summer to early autumn (June to September) Height 45 to 60cm (18 to 24in) Spacing 45-60cm (18-24in) Position Full Sun Soil Well-drained. Does best in slightly alkaline soils. Time to Sow January to March for flowering from June, or April to August for flowering the following year. Germination 2 to 3 weeks at 18 to 21°C (65 to 70°F)