What a welter of latin names have been given to the lowly Viscaria – Viscaria oculata, Silene coeli-rosa and Lychnis coeli-rosa. All refer to the easy-to-grow annual which is thin and weedy when seen as a single plant but en masse produces a gay kaleidoscope of colour. The cup-shaped flowers measure about 1 in. across and are recommended for cutting.

Viscaria – Silene coeli-rosa

Annuals are a valuable part of any garden scheme. Whether they are used as bedding or as fillers in mixed borders. One of their beauties is the colour of the flowers, which often add a touch of flamboyance. However, other plants are more subtle in the colour they add, and one of them is Viscaria.

English: Bougainvillea spectabilis (flowerings...

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Viscana have flattened, funnel-shaped flowers that are a soft purplish-pink with white centres. These are set off by the fresh green of the stems and narrow leaves. The plants are erect with stiff stems, but when grown en masse, they tend to grow together, making a continuous carpet.

Although the main colour is a soft pink, centred with white, other colours are available. ‘Rose Angel’ is almost magenta and lacks the white centre. If anything, it is a slightly darker pink in the middle. ‘Blue Angel’, 1 implies, is a blue-flowered form, again with a darker centre. ‘Occulata’ has a black eye and comes in several different colours based on pink and blue. As well as single colours, various mixtures are available from seed merchants. ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘Brilliant Mixture’ are examples. The mixtures often include all-white flowers.

These plants are generally sown where they are to flower, so no planting is involved. However, they can be grown in pots, in which case they should be planted out in Spring, at about 15cm (6in) intervals. Thin sown plants to the same interval.

Viscaria is a member of the Pinks and Carnation family. Like most of its relatives, it prefers an open, sunny position.

Although reasonably drought-resistant, don’t let Viscaria become too dry.

Viscaria will grow on a wide range of soils, but dislike heavy, wet ones.

Viscaria vulgaris

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These hardy annuals will tolerate a certain amount of frost, although it is not usual to sow them until the worst has passed.

Generally, they are stiff enough to support themselves, but some of the taller varieties may need assistance from pea- sticks.

This plant may be found in catalogues and nurseries under any of the following: Agrostemma coeli-rosa, Coronaria coeli-rosa, Lychnis coeli-roso, Lychnis cordinolis, Viscaria cardinalis and Viscana elegons.

The easiest method is to sow them, either in drills or broadcast, in the open ground where they are to flower. Late Spring is quite early enough for this. Alternatively, they can be sown in pots and transplanted, However, this method is not always successful, unless only a few seed are sown in each pot. Thin the seedlings to just one plant per pot.

VARIETIES:You can buy single-colour varieties of Viscaria – the two you are most likely to find are ‘Blue Angel’ (azure blue) and ‘Love’ (rose-pink). The usual choice is a mixture, such as ‘Treasure Island’ or ‘Brilliant Mixed’ – sow a large patch and masses of white, pink, lavender, red, purple and blue flowers will appear all summer. The ‘Tom Thumb’ hybrids (6 in.) are in the textbooks but in very few catalogues.

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil will do – thrives in sun or partial shade.

PLANT DETAILS: Height 6 in. or 1 ft.

Spacing: 6 in.

Flowering period: June-August.

PROPAGATION: Sow seeds in September or April where they are to flower. Thin to required spacing.

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