Bee and butterfly friendly Scabiosa
Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ produces huge numbers of purple-blue pincushion-like flowers from July to September. This long-flowering scabious is ideal for a well-drained rock garden or using in a summer container display, also a beautiful cut flower for indoors. Its informal appearance also makes this plant perfect for cottage gardens and wildlife borders. As its name suggests, Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ is highly attractive to pollinators such as butterflies and bees. Butterfly Blue was introduced to the UK garden centre market in 1985 and in their first season, 20 000 plants were sold! It was originally selected several years before from a wild Scabiosa columbaria in Ireland by keen plantsman, David Tristram. He was searching for a sterile form that would not seed and keep flowering instead. He then purchased a nursery in West Sussex and brought his new discovery with him.
As often happens, when a nursery propagates and grows many thousands of a single variety, a genetic mutation happens called a ‘sport’ in horticultural circles. Pink Mist arose as a pink flowered shoot which was spotted and propagated from. It proved to be stable, retaining its flower colour, so two years after the launch of Butterfly Blue, Pink Mist was launched onto the market, and they have both been immensely popular ever since. Today we grow about 100,000 combined a year.
Both the ‘Butterfly Blue’ and ‘Pink Mist’ are easy to grow in a moist but well-drained soil, flowering from late spring through to late summer. Being native to chalk downland, they do particularly well in chalky or limy soil. In the right spot, they are perennial for several years, deadhead spent blooms to prolong flowering.