By Penny Osnowski
Scabiosa is a member of the Capriloliaceae (honeysuckle) family, they are more commonly known as pincushion flowers. The stamens in the centre of the flower looks like pins in a cushion. Some Scabiosas are annuals and some perennials, the flowers are most commonly shades of mauve/purple but also can be shades of pink, white and even yellow. The flowers comprise of many small florets. They are native to Africa, the Mediterranean, Europe and Asia.
The first couple of times I tried growing Scabiosa they ended up in the compost heap but last year I bought one, I think at Nambour but I'm not sure, it is a perennial
variety and it flowered well last spring and into summer. The plant then rested, kept its leaves but just sat and it is just now starting to get some new shoots/leaves and a few buds are forming, so I am looking forward to some flowers soon. It seems this time I happened to select the right spot for it in my garden. I planted it close to the pot I grow water lilies in and where it gets some protection from the hot midday sun in summer.
To grow Scabiosa select a spot in mainly full sun (a little shade throughout the day is fine), soil which is well drained. Soil can be slightly alkaline but enriched with lots of compost, rotted manure and humus and holds some moisture. Scabiosa don't like it too cold or too hot, too dry, too wet or too humid, try to grow them in a spot where they don't get too many extremes, a bit of protection and water if the weather gets too dry. They will grow in a good sized pot or container, which may solve some of the problems with extremes of weather.
Annual and some perennial Scabiosa can be grown from seed. Some varieties will even self seed. Perennial Scabiosa can be propagated by dividing the plants every few years. Dig up the plant, late winter or early spring and divide into two or three rooted pieces and plant where you want them to grow.
Plants don't like to be overfed but give a little extra organic matter during spring. Pick flowers for bringing inside and/or deadhead throughout the blooming period to encourage more flowers.
The nectar in Scabiosa flowers will attract many beneficial insects to your garden as well as bees, butterflies and moths. Their leaves will provide food for the larvae of some butterflies. They also make good cut flowers.
If you are looking for another flower to try growing in your garden Scabiosa might be the one for you.
Eden Seeds sells no-hybrid old traditional open pollinated heirloom seeds. Growing heritage varieties ensures their survival. Save your own seeds for next season.