Silene campion, catchfly
Height 15-45cm (6-18in)
Planting distance 15cm (6in)
Flowers late spring to early autumn
Sunny or lightly shaded site
Campion and its many varieties are easily grown, hardy annuals valued for their prolific flowering through summer. The slender stems carry delicate, five-petalled, cup-shapedin attractive shades of blue, lilac, pink and white, with contrasting centres. They are suitable as cut flowers.
Their fragile appearance belies their robust growth habit, and they are seen to best advantage in large swathes in cottage-garden; the dwarf species and varieties are ideal for rock gardens and as edging.
Silene coeli-rosa (syn. Viscaria ele-gans) grows 45cm (18in) tall, its slender stems set with oblong, grey-green leaves and topped with white-eyed rose-purple flowers in succession from early to late summer. Several varieties are popular, including the ‘Angel’ series (height 25cm/10in), available in blue, rose-cerise or as a mixture. ‘Brilliant Mixture’ (38cm/25in) produces flowers in bright shades of pink, red, blue and white, all with a dark centre. ‘Fire King’ (25-38cm/10-15in) is vivid red; ‘Royal Collection’ (38cm/15in) bears large flowers in a range of bold colours; and ‘Treasure Island Mixed’ (30-45cm/12-18in) comes in soft shades of blue, purple, pink, crimson, and white.
Silene pendula is rather different, growing only 15-23cm (6-9in) high. It is the most widely grown of the annual species, forming compact plants ideal for edging. The erect stems bear loose clusters of pale pink flowers above mounds of pointed, mid green and hairy leaves. Popular varieties include ‘Dwarf Mixed’ (23cm/9in) with flowers in white or shades of pink. ‘Peach Blossom’ (15cm/6in) is of branching and cascading habit and suitable for hanging baskets, its stems are covered with a profusion of double flowers that open from deep pink buds to become salmon pink and when mature turn near white.
Sow the seeds in the flowering site in early toand thin the seedlings to their required spacings. Seeds of Silene pendula and its varieties can also be sown outdoors in early autumn, for flowering in late spring, and given cloche protection during winter.
All campions will grow in ordinary garden soil provided it is well-drained; they tolerate light shade but perform best in an open and sunny position.
Pests and diseases