Photo: Adam Jenkins
Scabiosa, originally known as “Sweet Scabious,” was a plant that was first domesticated in herb gardens as a cure for the “scabious” which means itch.
Old European gardens included deep purple almost black-colored scabiosa, and it was commonly known as Mourning Bride. Medicinally they were essential during early times when humans suffered from skin conditions related to poor hygiene.
Scabiosa speices include annuals, biennials and perennials, and they bear rounded flower heads that resemble pincushions. The pincushion is domed and made up of small florets, surrounded by larger petal-like florets.
The genus is Dipsacaceae which means “resembling teasel.” Dipsa’ means “thirst” in Greek and teasel plants collect and hold water in their leaf base.
The scabiosas like full sun and well drained soil and must be deadheaded regularly to prolong bloom. Divide the plants in the spring.
The best known perennial plants are Scabiosa caucasica (cau CASS ih Kuh) and columbaria, and colors range through lilac blues and pinks to rose purple.
White varieties make good edging plants as bloom continues all summer. They look delicate but are robust unless the soil is too wet, especially in winter.