THE SHOWY PINCUSHION FLOWER
The combination of attractive flowers, a long flowering season and versatility make the 'Pincushion flower', Scabiosa a nice summer flowering plant for the northwest garden. Their showy flowers, in addition to being attractive in the garden are also excellent for cutting, drying or pressing.
There are both annual and perennial varieties. Both grow and flower best when planted in full sun in soil that is well-drained and rich in organic matter.
The plant gets its name 'Pincushion Flower' because the stamens protrude from the center of the flower appearing like pins stuck in a cushion.
ANNUAL: Scabiosa atropurpurea, can be started from seed indoors in early spring then planted outdoors, after all danger of frost. Or, they can be seeded directly into the garden after all danger of frost has passed. Like the perennial varieties the annuals grow and flower best in full sun. Flowers are very similar in shape and possibly just a bit smaller in size. Flower colors range in shades of deep maroon, lavender-blue, rose, pink and white. When in flower the plants may attain a height of up to 2 1/2 to 3 feet. Their flowering season extends from mid-summer into the fall months. Plants may need staking, for added support.
PERENNIALS: Scabiosa columbaria is one of the perennial 'Pincushion flower' species. The varieties of 'Pink Mist' and 'Butterfly Blue' are probably the most popular of the perennial varieties used in gardens here.
'Pink Mist' has showy pastel pink flowers that are about 2 1/2 inches across.
'Butterfly Blue' flowers are a light lavender-blue, and up to 3 inches across.
'Perfecta', Scabiosa caucasica has pale blue flowers with an attractive white-center. Flowers average 2 1/2 to 3 inches across.
The foliage only grows about 8 to 10 inches high, so the flowers standout nicely above the scalloped leaves. The flower stems are about 12 to 18 inches long, making them ideal for cutting. One of the greatest attributes of the perennial Scabiosas is their long flowering season. These perennial varieties usually start blooming in late May or June and continue right up to frost. However, this year due to the mild winter, the plants in my garden had a few flowers all winter long. The leaves are evergreen.
USES IN THE GARDEN
This is one fine perennial for border planting, mid-bed planting and for small group plantings. It is especially nice when used with other summer flowering perennials. The flowers are even more noticeable when white flowering plants are planted nearby.
Always plant Scabiosa in full sun. They will grow and flower in part sun and shade, but the stems sometimes are not quite as strong, and there may be some broken stem damage.
Take time to properly prepare the soil prior to planting. The addition of organic humus in the form of compost, process or well-rooted manure, or peat moss is beneficial in getting the plants off to a good growing start. Be certain to plant the clumps at the same level as they were previously growing. Sometimes there is a tendency to plant or mulch them too deeply, and if this occurs the plants will be under stress and will not grow and flower as they should.
If the soil is prepared properly prior to planting, the plants should require little if any feeding. However, after a year or two, light feeding with a 'Rose type' fertilizer may be beneficial. The best time to fertilize is in earliest spring or late spring. Apply the fertilizer according to label instructions and be certain to water in dry type fertilizers, immediately after application.
Should the plant become over-crowded, they can be divided. Here in the northwest, this may occur after 3 or 4 years or more. The best time to divide them is in earliest spring.
This is one plant that will need a bit of your attention, because the dead flowers must be removed in order to keep the plants flowering. Deadheading also improves the appearance of the clumps. Make your pruning cut just above a leaf joint, or the stems can be cut back to the bottom leaves if necessary to improve the overall-appearance of the plant.
INSECTS AND DISEASE
We have not experienced any insect problems with the half-dozen Scabiosa plants in our garden. However, we have experienced mildew problems when the plants were situated in a spot where there was poor air circulation, or where the location was too shady.
Scabiosa is a great plant for summer garden color, it's easy to grow and the cut flowers are ideal for summer cutting.