Scabiosa, a native of southern Europe, is like a pincushion with flowers up to 3 inches in size and scores of yellow or white stamens. The original flowers had a sweet scent. Pincushion flower and mourning bride are two common names for scabiosa.
Description of scabiosa: Scabiosa can grow up to 21/2 feet tall; modern varieties are shorter. The many branched plants are topped with flowers in white, pink, lavender, and deepest maroon (almost black), from which the name "mourning bride" comes. Both double and single forms are found.
Growing scabiosa: Scabiosas grow well in any moderately fertile, well-drained soil. They need full sun. Plant outdoors after all danger of frost has passed, spacing them 8 to 15 inches apart, depending on variety. The taller varieties will need staking, but the shorter ones do not if protected from high winds, Scabiosas are sensitive to water. Apply water in the morning so that it can dry off before night.
Propagating scabiosa: Start new plants from seeds. Sow outdoors as soon as all danger of frost has passed, thinning seedlings to the proper spacing. For earlier bloom, sow seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks prior to outdoor planting. Seeds germinate in 10 to 15 days at 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
Uses for scabiosa: Scabiosa is a delight in cottage gardens and mixed borders. It can also be grown and flowered in greenhouses or in sun rooms through fall and winter. Scabiosa makes good cut flowers.
Scabiosa related varieties: Blue Cockade has double flowers of rich, lavender-blue. It is a tall, 3-foot variety. Dwarf Double is a mix of colors in white, lavender, lavender-blue, and rose, growing to 18 inches. Giant Imperial features large flowers on long stems, ideal for cutting. They are a mix of lavender-blue, white, rose, and pink. Double Mixed are fragrant, fully double flowers that include the darker colors of purple and deep crimson as well as white and pink. Ace of Spades is deep maroon. Ebony and Ivory is a mix of white and deep red-black.
Scientific name of scabiosa: Scabiosa atropurpurea