I always like it when I find a plant which is versatile, can be used in many ways and has an unusual or desire color…what more could a plant lover want? I also like to find beautiful plants which can live in a wide range of climates, be they very cold or very hot. So plants I first encountered in parks or botanical gardens while others I have been introduced to in nurseries where some clever person realized what a wonderful plant it was. This plant i was introduced to because I had to learn to grow it at a former job as a grower in a nursery. Knautia macedonica (Crimson Scabious) is a plant which has great qualities for a plant and adds long period of color into the garden.
As you might have guessed Knautia macedonica comes from Eastern Europe near the Mediterranean and Black Seas, more specifically the former Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Albania and south eastern Romania. In the past this plant was used to relieve skin roughness and was used as a treatment for dermatitis in the Balkans. Knautias are closely related to Scabiosa and at one time where classified as being from the same family, therefore the common name of Crimson Scabious. They both come from the Dipsacaceae family which also includes over 350 species which grow mostly in Europe, Asia , Africa and Australia.
There are several species of Knautia other than Knautia macedonica which are good garden plants and also bloom for a long period. Knautia is named after German doctor and botanist Christoph Knaut (1638-94),.He was born and lived in Halle where he published ‘Flora’ (Compendium Botanicum sive Methodus plantarum genuina) in 1687 with his brother Christian. In ‘Flora’ he described 17 different classes of plants. Carl von Linné( Linnaeus) later studied this work when developing the plant classification system we all know and use today.
Crimson Scabious is native to limestone scrub lands and grass meadows where the soil can be poor and scant rain falls during the long growing season. The attractive basal leaves often have a greyish color and dry up during its period of bloom, at that time its blossom stems can easily be seen weaving through other plants and popping out to create interesting color combinations. The crimson color starts out with an almost blackish tone (like Chocolate Cosmos) and takes on a bluish hue as it ages, I have found it is a hard color to photograph.
Crimson Scabious is a plant which can grow in a variety of situations, this is because it a very easy plant to grow. You will need well drained soil which is rich in nutrients, full sun for the best possible blossoms and some dead-heading to keep the plant tidy. I think this is a plant for the middle of the border as it gets quite big and can flop if it is not staked or cut back. It looks good weaving through strong foliage such as irises, Daylillies or grasses and can be used to cover areas of early bulbs which will have died down by late may and June.
Knautia macedonica grows to at least 1m(3ft) tall and by the same wide. There is now a shorter form(‘Mars Midget’) which you can easily grow from seed. There are also a seed color form (‘Melton Pastels’) which give a range of colors from from pinks through lavenders and the traditional red.
Although Knautia macedonica is listed as tolerating temperatures down to zone 5 -20c(-4f) it can be pushed much lower in a drier site to the low zone 3(-30c or -20f)It is sucessfully grown in prairie gardens in Saskatchewan. This plant will give you months of pleasure not only in the garden but also in a vase as they make a excellent cut flower which needs no special treatment. Butterflies will come to your garden more often as well.
Knowing Knautia macedonica:
A prairie gardeners experience with Crimson Scabious: http://em.ca/garden/per_knautia_macedonica_mars_midget.html
Martha says…: http://www.marthastewart.com/plant/knautia-macedonica
Growing it in the pacific northwest: http://www.paghat.com/knautia.html
Same time, same place……next week?