An herbaceous prennial that reaches about 75cm in height with a profusion of wine-red flowers throughout summer this is a gorgeous perennial.
However the thing that total won our hearts over is not the usual flowers or foliage, but the tiny, inconspicuous seed heads that form after the flowers are fertilised, drop their petals and the vital work of seed production begins. Totally by accident whilst photographing this plant at Harlow Carr gardens I popped the macro lens on the camera and discovered a hidden world, almost too small to see that immediately summed up the wonder of plants, and richness of plant life we have all around us.
Pronounced naughtier, this little gem is easy to grow, as long as it has a reasonably alkaline free-draining soil, bathed in full sunlight it will be happy and create a stunning display.
Knautia macedonica used to be known as Scabiosa rumelica and is a member of the scabious family, (Dipsacaceae) The flowers have a central dome of florets, surrounded by larger decorative petals. The flowers are important sources of nectar for butterflies, bees and those devourers of aphids the hoverfly.
A well respected garden plant now, Knautia macedonica has much humbler roots, as this is a wild flower that has made good and been introduced to our gardens because it both has stunning looks but is also well behaved. The name may be pronounced naughtier, but this is a very well behaved plant! I am a great believer that to understand a plant fully one at least must know where it comes from, and at best see it growing int he wild, in this case that would mean visiting thin woodland and scrub.
The habit is that of a much branched perennial, with every shoot and branch of a stem ending in a flower that seems to catch every breeze, gently swaying and adding movement to the garden.
Whilst we are normally told to deadhead and deadhead to keep out plants flowering, this is not required in this case, partly as it is so free flowering, but also as it has these amazing seed heads. If it does outgrow the space allocated to it, then it is possible to simply prune out some of the larger and more exuberant growth. Pea sticks earlier in the year can be used to support the growth and keep it looking tidy.
Once the seed heads have formed, it may be necessary to remove or paper bag a few to protect them from the bids. The seed germinate well if sown on the surface of compost in May, and given a very light covering with a 50% compost 50% grit mix.
Knautia macedonica is a reasonably trouble free plant to grow, however the young stems can get attacked by greenfly and if it is allowed to dry out, or experience uneven watering then Powdery Mildew can be a problem, so while it likes a well drained soil, the addition of organic matter prior to planting to make that seemingly impossible moisture retentive yet free draining soil would be effort richly rewarded.
A worthy contender in the 100 project.