As human beings, we have been fascinated with geometrical shapes since the first record of our existence. We all admired the beautiful structures of snow crystals as a child and marvelled at the remarkably symmetrical honeycomb of the bee, each little cell a perfect hexagon.
Many of these geometric forms look too perfect, to be real, and while some mathematicians and scientists may talk about mathematics as the 'mysterious code that underpins the world', most gardeners are familiar with the perfect geometry that is to be found in nature.
The papery bracts of Scabiosa stellata is an example of perfect geometry and adds a new shape to the garden. This most unusual plant produces delicate pale blue spherical flower heads, but is grown primarily for the seed heads which follow.
Jutting vertically from the base of the plant on long stems, attractive pale blue flowers are followed by translucent papery, cone shaped bracts which accompany the mature seed. They are clustered together to suggest a delicate, lightweight geodesic sphere. At the centre of each cone, the remnants of the bloom open to form a perfect, thinly stretched star.
Also known as paper moons, or star-flowers, the everlasting seed heads make excellent cut flowers and are perfect for dried arrangements. They are striking in a bridal bouquet or as a cluster alone in a vase.
Sowing: Sow in spring March to April or September to October
Sow indoors in late March to early April, three to four weeks before planting outside. Alternatively, the seed can also be sown directly where they are to flower once the soil warms in mid to late April. The plants usually take around 75 to 80 days from seeding to bloom. The seeds can also be sown September to October for early summer flowering next year.
Sow in pots or trays of moist seed compost and cover with a very fine sprinkling of compost or vermiculite. Keep soil moderately moist during germination, which takes around 7 to 10 days at temperatures between 15 to 20°C (59 to 68°F). When large enough to handle, transplant the seedlings into small pots to grow on. Acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost 15cm (6in) apart.
Prepare the ground well and rake to a fine tilth. If sowing more than one annual in the same bed, mark the sowing areas with a ring of sand and label. Sow 3mm (1/8in) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart. Sow seed sparingly or they will choke out other seedlings.
Water ground regularly, especially in dry periods. The seedlings will appear in rows approx 6 to 8 weeks after planting and can be easily told from nearby weed seedlings. Thin the seedlings out so they are finally 30cm (12in) apart. Carefully replant thinned plants.
All scabious prefer well-drained soil and a sunny position. Only water in an extended drought and do not apply large doses of fertiliser as flowering will be suppressed.
Deadhead to prolong flowering and encourage new flower buds. At the season's end, don't be too quick to pull up withering plants. Birds love to snack on their seedheads in autumn, and the seeds that they miss may drop to the ground and reward you the next year by sprouting into a whole new crop.
Scabiosa is a cut-and-come-again bloomer, meaning that the sooner you cut the blooms, the quicker new buds will pop up to replace them. The blooms appear so profusely that you'll still have plenty of colour in the garden after you've picked your flowers. Cut flower stems can be harvested, when the flower show colour. Put the stems in warm water immediately. Vase life: 8 to 10 days.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Borders and Beds. Butterflies and Bees.
Scabiosa is a genus of about 80 species that are native to Eurasia and Africa. Scabiosa atropurpurea was the first scabious to be introduced into cultivation in 1591. Since then several species have been introduces and many cultivars are now available as popular garden ornamentals.
Scabiosa stellata is native to the Mediterranean area, southern Europe, western Asia and Northern Africa. It can be found growing in abandoned fields and roadsides.
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 stellata refers to the star shaped flowers.
It has the common names of Paper moons, Star-flower and Drumstick Scabious.
Scabiosa stellata can be found marketed with the names of Ping Pong or Ping Pong Starflower, or with the German names of Sternkugel or Stern Kugel (meaning 'Star Ball')
- Additional Information
Packet Size 2 grams Average Seed Count 40 large seeds Seed Form Natural Seeds per gram 20 seeds per gram Family Dipsacaceae Genus Scabiosa Species stellata Cultivar Marketed as Stern Kugel, Sternkugel and Ping Pong Synonym Scabiosa x urbicum, Asterocephalus atropurpureus Common Name Paper moons, Star-flowers Other Common Names Annual Scabious Hardiness Tender Perennial often used as an Annual Flowers Faded Blue Natural Flower Time Early summer to late autumn, June to September Height 45 to 60cm (18 to 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)