SCABIOUS

Sometimes known as pincushion flower, the perennial scabious are popular with amateurs although in many gardens even better results could be obtained with a little extra care. Scabious are grown on a very wide scale for cut flowers and probably occupy a bigger acreage than any other hardy perennial. They mostly reach 21/2 — 3 ft. and succeed on any soil, including light, dry land. They are possibly best on a deeply-dug, sandy loam, with a high lime content. A spadeful of lime per plant should be given each autumn. Before planting work in plenty of compost, hop manure etc. to provide humus, and on no account plant when the roots are dormant, otherwise die-back will ensue. Late March to early May when new basal shoots are making vigorous growth is the best time. Plant 18 in. apart. No staking is needed. Some commercial growers give a dressing of sulphate of potash in March to intensify the colour of the blooms, I—2 oz. per sq. yd. is advised, though the precise rate does not matter. Best results are secured when clumps are divided every 3 years in spring. Choose the smaller outside pieces. Always cut scabious with long stems. As with sweet peas the more they are cut, the greater the quantity of flower.

Clive Greaves is the best known variety. It is an attractive deep blue which blooms well into October in a mild autumn. A. E. Whittaker has frilled mauve flowers. Moerheim Blue is a real deep blue but less vigorous than most. Ivory Queen, Loddon White and Miss Willmott are good whites. Soutcr’s Violet is rich violct-bluc.

Scabiosa rumelica grows to about 20 in. It bears quantities of small crimson flowers and is a useful border plant, given good drainage. The habit of growth is rather untidy.

The annual scabious are also excellent for cutting. They grow to about 20 in. and are really hardy biennials, though treated as half-hardy annuals and sown in a warm greenhouse in March. Can also be treated as hardy annuals if sown in April and thinned to io in. apart. White Cockade is snow-white, King of the Blacks rich maroon, Blue Cockade deep azure-blue and Flesh Pink is self-explanatory. Mixed strains include shades of pink, purple, salmon, mauve, red and white. Tom Thumb is a dwarf, compact strain with large blooms, to about 18 in.

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