Of all the garden plants which give high value for a small financial outlay, one of my favourites has to be Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’. For the price of a packet of seeds, you are unlikely ever to be without this plant as it readily self-sows, although not so much that it seems if its progeny are outstaying their welcome. How could they? With evergreen glaucous leaves and deep plum bracts, Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ is a quiet low cost plant which attracts attention for its gentle beauty and high value to bees.
It grows in ordinary, well-drained soil in full sun, although I have found it seeds into gravel and flowers perfectly well there. At 30-45cm high, it makes a good ground cover plant, but it also looks wonderful with its bracts cascading gently over the side of a container.
Sow indoors between February and May and plant out after the last frost; although Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ is quite accommodating and can also be sown outdoors and between September and October. It will flower all summer long – or at least it is supposed to, but we see flowers as early as March at Le Grys Farm.
Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ can be cut for indoor arrangements as it lasts well if the stems are seared in boiling water for around 30 seconds. I prefer to leave the flowers on the plant though as they are such a valuable source of nectar. Sow now and within 12 weeks you and the bees should be enjoying blooms all summer long. Deadhead any faded flower stems, then as autumn approaches allow some flowers to go to seed and you could be enjoying this high value, low outlay plant in your garden for many years to come.
Sarah Shoesmith is a garden designer with a passion for wildlife and conservation who is on a mission to grow crops beautifully. When she isn’t gardening, writing about gardens,designing gardens, visiting gardens or reading about gardens, she can be found eating chocolate and drinking coffee (probably in a garden).