Cottage Garden Favorites: Rose Campion
The first time that I saw rose campion, I stopped dead in my tracks. It was growing in combination with larkspur and feverfew, some of my favorite cottage garden flowers, and the combination was perfect. The contrast of the hot pink flowers with the cool purples of the larkspur and bright white of the feverfew was striking. I vowed to reproduce it in my own garden.
Rose campion are related to pinks and have similar flowers but that is where the resemblance ends. Whereas pinks grow in mounds with grassy foliage, rose campion has soft furry silvery gray leaves that grow in a rosette about a foot wide. One of its nicknames is dusty miller because of its resemblance to that plant.
A short-lived perennial that is also sometimes grown as a biennial in colder climates, rose campion is hardy in zones 4 through 10. It is originally from southeastern Europe and came to North America with the early colonists.
The rosettes of leaves at the base of the plants usually grow to about 12 inches tall while the flower stalks arising out the rosettes can be as tall as 3 feet. They are topped with dark pink or magenta flowers. It also comes with white flowers. Newer hybrids have combination pink and white flowers or white with a pink eye. There are double forms also. Bloom time is late spring to early summer.
As evidenced by its silvery leaves, rose campion is drought tolerant. It prefers sun but also tolerate a little shade. It is also deer resistant.
You can divide the leaf rosettes to make more plants but the easiest way to propagate rose campion is by seed. It readily self-sows or you can direct sow seeds in the spring or fall. Sow them on the surface and don't cover them. They need light to germinate. Be patient! Like all perennials, it can take 3 to 4 weeks for the seeds to germinate. Seeds should be sown where you want your plants to grow. They do not like being transplanted once they are established.
You can also start your seeds indoors 6 to 8 weeks before your last frost. Surface sow them so that they are exposed to light. The seeds need at least a week of cold stratification. You can plant the resulting seedlings in your garden after your last frost.
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© 2015 Caren White