Centaurea montana is not in the first rank of garden perennials. It is a bit of a spreader, never makes an eye-stopping display and is rather old fashioned. But, like so many plants, I like it because it is a plant I knew in my childhood.
Commonly called the perennial cornflower, it is a European native, including the British Isles (possibly – it could be naturalised) and is a low, easy-going plant. I remember it growing in my parents garden where it coped with shade and heavy clay soil, the rather weak stems each carrying a solitary, large bloom in beautiful blue. It was obvious that the first I planted in the garden is not typical but the white-flowered ‘Purple Heart’. Lovely as it is, and there are many selections of various colours, I now hanker for the plain blue.
It creeps steadily across the ground, which may be annoying, but it starts to bloom as early as April and there are a few flowers through most of summer. The leaves are green but slight hairy so can have a silvery grey look in the sun. It makes a good cut bloom.
The biggest problem with the plant is powdery mildew which can be unsightly in dry weather. If it strikes just shear the plant down and new growth will be clean – for a while at least.
There is a yellow-leaved cultivar called ‘Gold Bullion’, introduced by Blooms of Bressingham some time ago, which should be a gorgeous thing with the blue flowers above yellow leaves but I have found it tricky to grow well in the past, reacting as healthily as Dracula to bright sunlight. But, if I see it on my travels I will have to add it to the garden.
As a follow up to a recent post when I mentioned the roses in the hedge, the photos hardly displayed the beauty of the flowers. To correct this, here is Rosa arvensis:
and here is Rosa rubiginosa
And another plant doing its stuff for the first time; daylily ‘Red Suspenders’. This was introduced in 1990 and is an ‘unusual form’ daylily – not quite a spider but a UFO. It is a tetraploid and winter dormant, not evergreen. The flowers are supposed to be 20cm across and I don’t think these are, quite, but they are very big and very bold and its a keeper!
A word of warning: Daylily gall midge has hit us very strongly this year, something which has not happened previously and I heard from a friend in the UK who breeds daylilies that she has an absolute scourge of them at the moment.
That is a big worry. Because the larvae/ pupae over winter in the soil is is often recommended only to buy bare-root plants to be sure you do not buy in the pest in potted plants. I have seen the damage this pest can do in the UK and it is awful. I was only thinking today that I may give up on lilies because of lily beetle but I am not sure I could cope without daylilies. I have not had any sign of the gall midge so far but will keep an eye open for them.
We haven’t bought in any daylilies in the last few years so they can appear on their own – or come in on other plants?
I don’t think they can live in other plants. But the adults can fly so I assume they could move from garden to garden. I am slightly paranoid now as I look at the buds!
We have picked any bud which looked suspect and have stripped a patch of ‘Corky’ completely as it had so many infected.