Plant Profile Viscaria oculata (syn. Silene coeli-rosa)
Excellent for: Pressing, Cut Flowers
With the current fervour for naturalistic planting schemes, it’s surprising this pretty, uncomplicated annual isn’t more widely grown. The colours advertised by various sellers seem to range from salmon-pink to pure white but I find the majority of plants bear varying tones of pink, blue or lilac flowers.
The germination rate of these seeds is generally excellent; a smattering sprinkled on the surface of the compost quickly becomes a dense mini-forest of seedlings as soon as your back is turned. I start mine off indoors as I tend to mollycoddle all annuals, but I would be interested to know if you have successfully sown them directly into the ground.
They have non-descript foliage and a lax habit so allow them to scramble through a more robust neighbour or plant them en masse for a better display. The Chiltern Seeds website recommends deadheading them to prolong the flowering period but to be honest, I have never deadheaded a one and they flower for months on end, cleanly dropping their spent blooms so you never notice the fallen soldiers. Grow them in full sun or partial shade, but otherwise they are pretty unfussy.
There seems to be a little confusion about the name. I order my supply each year from www.chilternseeds.co.uk where it’s listed as Viscaria oculata. It also seems to be known as Silene coeli-rosa in other quarters, but a rose by any other name…. No, they are not fragrant. Well you can’t have everything.