Hot July Days Call For Swathes of These Pretty Pincushion Blooms and Clouds of Butterﬂies Who’ll Enjoy The Necdar Feast
D on’t be put off by this delightful flower’s less-than-lovely name that comes from its days as a traditional medicine used to treat scabies. Its common moniker, pincushion flower, is much more in keeping! And while these unassuming blooms won’t be the stars of the show in your border, they make for a hard-working, low-maintenance supporting cast bursting with colourful character, from spherical bursts of dark deliciousness to open blooms of lilac, scallop-edged petals. Some varieties of scabious live for just a year, but others reliably pop their pretty heads back up every spring – and it’s these we love best, as you really don’t need to give them any TLC other than snipping off their button heads once the blooms fade.
These will flower all summer long, and well into autumn, their mounds of bright green or grey-green leaves the perfect foil. This pretty foliage is often evergreen, so it stops borders from looking bare in winter – choose a low-growing type such as such as ‘Butterfly Blue’ or ‘Pink Mist’ if you want to take full advantage of this handy attribute. Pincushion flowers are irresistible to bees and butterflies, as they’re packed with nectar. Their often-shapely stems make for gorgeous arrangements of cut flowers, too. A handful of their geodesic seed pods look great in a bottle – if you want to dry a bunch, pick them when the pod is still green, and hang them upside down in a dry, airy spot.
PICK HEALTHY PLANTS
You’ll find some varieties in garden centres and DIY stores, but it’s a good idea to look online for the widest choice. Choose plants with a good coverage of strong, healthy, well-coloured leaves all over the pot. Any tired-looking, yellowing or wilted leaves are signs of stress, so avoid these. If you can, carefully turn the plant upside down and ease off the pot – look for a good mix of compost and healthy white roots.
KEEP THEM ALIVE
Pincushion flowers need a sunny position. They love well-drained soil so dig in lots of bulky organic matter, compost or soil improver (try Verve Soil Improver, (£4.37, diy.com) before planting, and also some sharp sand or grit if you’ve got heavy clay soil.
HELP THEM THRIVE
To keep plants flowering for as long as possible, use a controlled-release fertiliser in spring and then feed from late July to September with a liquid plant food such as Levington Tomorite (£4.49, crocus.co.uk). Don’t worry about watering them unless you’re enjoying a long spell of very dry weather, or you’ve got sandy soil. Snip off flower stems once the blooms fade, and tidy up any old leaves.
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