The lavender-mauve Scabious caucasica arrived from the Caucasus in the early nineteenth century and is the form most widely grown in gardens today. Scabious plants are a useful addition to the border for their unusual colour, their long flowering period (they flower profusely from June to October), and also for attracting butterflies and moths to their nectar-rich blooms.
The name of this pretty flower derives from that not-very-pretty itchy rash Scabies which its wild relative Knautia arvensis was said to cure. Its common name of the Pincushion Flower derives from its centre that looks just like a mass of pins stuck into an old-fashioned pin cushion. Scabious is a perennial that likes a sunny border and to be planted in a well-drained alkaline soil in March. It can tolerate drought but doesn’t like to be waterlogged.
Scabious grows to 18 inches and is a good cutting flower favoured by florists, that is long-lasting in water and not so bad mannered as to drop its petals on a table or window-sill. Of several lovely varieties, Clive Greaves is powder blue, Miss Willmot is white and Pride of Exmouth is navy blue.