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Cottage Garden Favorites: Bachelor's Buttons (Cornflowers)

Updated on January 18, 2017
OldRoses profile image

Caren White is a Master Gardener and longtime volunteer at Rutgers Gardens. She also teaches workshops at Home Gardeners School.

Source

We often think of Bachelor’s Buttons or Cornflowers as old-fashioned flowers, but in reality, they are ancient. They have been grown for thousands of years as evidenced by the wreath of Bachelor’s Buttons found in King Tut’s tomb.

History

Bachelor's Buttons started out as a wildflower in Europe that grew freely in fields of grains which are known as corn in Britain, hence the name cornflower. They were also called "hurtsickle" because they blunted the cutting edges of the sickles that were used to harvest grains. They gained the name "Bachelor's Button" because young single men wore them as boutonnieres when they were courting. Folklore claimed that if the flower wilted quickly, it was a sign that the young man's romantic aspirations would fail.

Today, thanks to modern herbicides used in grain fields, cornflowers have almost disappeared as wildflowers. Thankfully, they have long been welcomed in our gardens so they haven't become extinct.

Cultivation

Bachelor's buttons are grown as annuals in all growing zones. They prefer full sun, but will grow in part shade. They reach their maximum height of 1- to 3 feet in full sun. However, as they grow taller they tend to fall over and need staking. They can tolerate dry conditions but prefer about 1 inch of water per week in well-drained soil.

Thanks to modern hybridization, the original blue flowered plants now also come in purple, pink and white. Modern hybrids are also more fully double, resembling carnations. They start blooming in early summer and if deadheaded will produce a second flush of flowers at the end of summer.

Propagation

Bachelor's buttons are easily grown from seed. They should be direct sown in your garden after your last frost. Keep the seeds moist and they will germinate quickly, usually within one week to ten days. They will tolerate crowding but do best and bloom more if you thin the plants to 6- to 12 inches apart.

Bachelor's buttons will freely self-sow in your garden if you allow the flowers to go to seed. Alternatively, you can harvest the seed heads and sow the seeds again the following spring or share them with your gardening friends.

Other Uses

In Canada, bachelor's buttons are grown for use as cut flowers by florists. The flowers can also be dried for use in dried arrangements and wreaths.

The flowers are edible and are often used as part of an herbal tea blend. Bachelor's buttons are an ingredient in the famous Lady Grey blend made by Twinings of London, a well-known tea company.

© 2014 Caren White

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    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 years ago from USA

      What interesting tidbits of history about this flower! I love that it's a blue flower -- you don't see too many of them.

    • OldRoses profile image
      Author

      Caren White 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      It's blue color is probably why it was brought into people's gardens. Thanks for reading!

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 2 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Very interesting, these were my oldest brother's (who has passed on) favorite flower and I will never see them I do not think of him. In younger days they were everywhere and especially along the roadside in the summer. I did not know they were edible. Voted up and across. Sharing.

    • avorodisa profile image

      Anna Sidorova 2 years ago from Russia

      Today is Whitsunday, a Christian holiday in my country and the day when, according to folklore and common observations, the ground is covered by flowers. Cornflowers also grow on the huge fields of Russia. They are among my favorite ones. I like your comparison to carnations. It never occurred to me how the two different flowers resemble each other in form. I'd like to add that cornflowers are also used in cosmetics, especially in facial lotions and creams. They help avoid shiny skin keeping it smooth and matt.

    • OldRoses profile image
      Author

      Caren White 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Jackie, one of the joys of gardening for me is planting flowers that were either given to me by friends or are the favorite flowers of friends. Both serve to remind me of the special people in my life whenever I visit my garden. Thanks for reading and sharing.

    • OldRoses profile image
      Author

      Caren White 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Avorodisa, thank you for the wonderful information. Too often we here in the US only consider "facts" from the US and Europe. I'm love learning how other cultures grow and use plants. Thank you for reading and commenting.

    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 2 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Avorodisa, how wonderful to know tis cosmetic use for cornflowers!

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thank you for sharing the interesting facts about such a beautiful flower.

    • OldRoses profile image
      Author

      Caren White 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      You're welcome Alicia! And thanks for reading.

    • Patsybell profile image

      Patsy Bell Hobson 2 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

      A favorite flower of mine. Great Hub. Voted up,U, A, I, Pin, Tweet. Wish I could see you garden.

    • OldRoses profile image
      Author

      Caren White 2 years ago from Franklin Park, NJ

      Thanks, Patsybell! I love them too. My garden is still filling in. I'm trying all my favorites to see what grows best.

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