Updated: Apr 23
It's not just bees that love scabious, the flowers are a rich source of nectar for many insects including butterflies, and the seedheads are loved by birds.
© PJ Photography/shutterstock.com
I've always liked scabious with their pin cushion blue flowers. If you are lucky you might have seen field scabious Knautia arvensis growing in a wild flower meadow covered in butterflies and bees. Sadly this is not such a common sight as it once was which is why our domestic gardens are so important as food sources for wildlife.
Scabious is a perfect flower to add to the border. The blooms have a sweet honey-like scent and typically flower from June all through the summer and in some cases well into the autumn. The great news for gardeners is that there are lots of varieties to choose from, in a range of colours from deepest burgundy to a creamy white. There are also a good range of sizes from short plants that suit the front of the border to towering annuals. A few years ago I grew a tall scabious Cephalaria gigantea which has a nice pale yellow flower and is really GIANT. Mine probably got as tall as me.
They also make great cut flowers lasting more than a week in water, snipping some for the house and deadheading regularly will keep the plants flowering and provide indoor floral arrangements. As consumers are increasingly aware of the carbon miles that food has travelled awareness has grown that this is also often true for cut flowers. Ironically there are many great plants with long-lasting flowers that grow here in the UK and Scabious is one great example. Hopefully home-grown flowers is a market sector that will grow over the next few years. Check out this article from Gardens Illustrated about a flower farm in Guisborough which includes photographs of fields of scabious in lots of colours. https://www.gardensillustrated.com/gardens/country/rowes-priory-gardens-flower-farm/
There are hardy perennial, annual and biennial varieties. The perennials will flower year after year. An annual, whose life cycle is just one season, still provides plenty of garden value as it
has a succession of flowers for months. Like most plants scabious will be particularly long-flowering if faded blooms are removed. Scabious prefer a sunny position to flower best. They don't like to be permanently wet so don't overwater and won't flower well in the shade. The tall varieties benefit from staking.
I have grown 5 varieties for 2021;
Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Black Knight' A tall annual with really dark almost black flowers from June to October.
Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Beaujolais Bonnets' A mid sized hardy perennial with dusky pink outer petals and deeper claret coloured centres. It flowers from June to September.
Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Burgundy Beau' A mid size annual with domed flowerhead in a rich plum colour.
Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Blue Cockade' A tall biennial with lavender blue flowers.
Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Tall Double Red' A tall deep red flowering scabious from June to August.