Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’

Cerinthe major 'Purpurascens' flower
Cerinthe ‘Purpurascens’ is about as beautiful and unique a cut flower that you could wish to jangle around your collection.

In the Boraginaceae family (with, not surprisingly, Borage) this plant is as valued for her glaucous foliage as she is for her dingly-dangly-ring-a-ding-dong purple flowers. Having hitch-hiked over from Southern Europe, Cerinthe ‘Purpurascens’ charmed soil sisters and land lads alike. 45cm’s of honey-wort/shrimp plant’ness – she’s here to stay.

Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ in the vase

Cerinthe major 'purpurascens' cut flower

Casually glancing right Cerinthe-clogs is river-dancing with his Royal Highness Calendula ‘Indian Prince’, Nigella and a marigold of the African variety.

Acting as both filler foliage and punctuating flower, she’s like those bendy, twining spotlights that pizazzily lead the eye. Have that one on me Ikea!

Strip the lower leaves off the stem, bob them into a vase (the one seen right was made by my niece, yours probably won’t be) and she’ll last a good week – splundid hey?

Cerinthe major – not

Last year I was so excited and slightly cocky when I found, in my muddy paw, a packet of Cerinthe major seeds. Just the species, with none of that purpurascens cultivar nonsense. I was going to revolutionise the Cut Flower World, win Flower Farmer of the Year awards & make it fashionable to come from Barrow-in-Furness

Oh how the mighty do fall. The packet had been mislabeled and the sizable chunk of earth I dedicated to subversion grew strong, healthy plants. Buds opened to reveal the thin, pointed yellow flowers of Cerinthe minor – not major. A major disaster for my ego with minor consequences and a small story to tell of when I was sold a pup.

Cerinthe major

Cerinthe major

See above – black Cerinthe seeds form on the stem whilst the plant is still in flower.

Growing Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ from seed

Cerinthe major purpurascens nutlets

Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ nutlets

Well, for starters, technically, Cerinthe grows from nutlets.

Large brown nutlets. Grant, the other Higgledy Researcher, is developing a Cerinthe nutlet magnet as we speak. He has applied for funding, but poor Research Grant (as we call him) can’t get a research grant.

Nutlets develop from the bottom of the stem upwards as flowers fade.

With ovaries that divide into two – each ripe nutlet produces two seedlings.

Soak the nutlet in water over night (or the cerinthe police will get you), then sow (from April onwards) underglass.

Direct sow (from end of April) to a depth three times the height of the seed.


Cerinthe nutlings

Sown underglass, after a week or so cerinthe siblings appear – the duo grow-o!

I divide my twin set when pricking out – because such activity makes me shine.

But if that seems double trouble – keep them together.

But they are such big seeds, you can sow directly into a 7cm pot. Less Phaff.

Plant out when fear of frosts have passed – say May 15th.

Autumn sow in September… they may survive a gentle Winter

Cerinthe major and feverfew

Cerinthe in the vase with Feverfew, Lavvers and Alchemilla

That’s all very precise hey? Cerinthe will self-seed where they drop with fervor and her germination rate is second to none. I guerrilla sowed one seed in a secret location (well, I know where it is) last July. The plant is now 35cm tall with zero flower buds. I mention this to show just how hardy Cerinthe has been… in this mild winter…

And that really is all I have to say on the matter.

Yours Cerintherely

Karen, The Higgledy Researcher (AKA @sanguisorba) ,


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