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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

Best Actress in a Supporting Role - Scabiosa

flower bouquets
The dark accents in these bouquets are 'Black Knight' scabiosa

That’s a flippant title, but here’s the truth: there are some flowers that will never be the star of the show. But that doesn’t make them less valuable. Any flower arrangement beyond a single rose in a bud vase will need supporting roles.

In the cut flower business, flowers and foliage that support the focal flowers are called “filler.” We’ll skip foliage in this post and look at small filler flowers. One of my favorites in this category is scabiosa. (What an unfortunate name! It doesn’t sound appealing and it isn’t easy to remember. That’s the scientific name, but the common name is pincushion flower, and I think that’s worse, so we’ll stick to scabiosa.)

There are annual and perennial varieties of scabiosa. The annuals are more commonly grown and far more floriferous, but flowers of the perennial ‘Fama’ types are large and frilly, bordering on star material.

Scabiosa are easy to start from seed; we plant them in 72-cell trays and grow them under lights for six or eight weeks before planting outdoors. We’re in USDA zone 9 – if you’re in other zones you can adapt a routine that fits your climate. Like most hardy annuals that begin life in cold weather, scabiosa seedlings don’t grow very quickly. Once they have two or more sets of true leaves, we plant them outdoors. In our zone, we rarely have frost after February, but other zones will need to keep in mind their frost dates.

My favorites of the annual scabiosa are Black Knight and Salmon. Black Knight is a dramatic dark accent, while Salmon is actually a dark, dusty rose that changes color as it ages, and blends beautifully with gold, peach, orange or cream flowers. We also grow Oxford Blue, which is actually lavender. We used to grow Snow Maiden, but I find it loses petals too quickly.

flower bouquet
Two Fama White scabiosa are at the top center; Salmon scabiosa at the bottom.

I have a perennial scabiosa that I bought as a plant from Annie’s Annuals. It’s called Scabiosa ochroleuca and it’s a darling accent flower for bouquets. The ivory flowers are held on long, wiry stems and they last a long time in the vase. The stems are thin but strong, and since they’re so long, I often arrange them to float and wave above the rest of the arrangement, adding interest.

The other perennial scabiosa we grow here at Tiny Footprint Flowers are ‘Fama White’ and ‘Fama Blue.’ These are larger blooms that could be considered focal flowers, especially in a small arrangement. The seedlings are faster and stronger than annual scabiosa, but the established plants don’t bear as many flowers as annual types. Both have their place in the garden and in arrangements.

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