Agrostemma (A. githago) aka 'Corn Cockle', 'Ocean Pearls'
This is an annual flower to plant very early in the season. It‘s a willowy plant with pretty purple satiny flowers striated with colorful markings. It flowers in late spring to early summer, while it’s still cool, and doesn’t last long so it’s nice to enjoy it at the beginning of the season. But it has a good vase life. And once flowering’s done, the seed pods are nice for dried arrangements.
There are three varieties. One is Purple Queen with reddish-purple petals with purple to blue striations leading down the petals. Another is Ocean Pearls, with white petals and golden dots leading into the petals. The flowers are on willowy, fuzzy, stems. And there’s ‘Pink Contessa’, a shell pink.
The flowers attract native pollinating bees!
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What the Plants are Like
The plants get 2-3 ft. tall, are easy to grow, but like to grow in cool conditions. The foliage is covered in hairs that give a grey cast to them.
Growing Agrostemma plants
Start the plants very early. Direct sowing is easiest or start indoors. In a mild winter climate sow in late fall to early spring. In colder climates sow as soon as soil can be worked. Thin to space them 6-9 in. apart.
They take 70-85 days to flower, and they flower longest while it’s still cool. Some sources suggest successively sowing to extend the harvest, but for a home garden it’s just as well to enjoy the early bloom and leave space for all the other flowers. When they are finished flowering allow the seed pods to form—for seeds and for nice little pods that are good for dried arrangements.
Cut the stems down to a node. Leave any side shoots on, they add to the willowy appearance. Use regular post-harvest handling.
My favorite is ‘Purple Queen’. I haven’t tried the pink, but the purple is just so appealing. And I think the white is nice, but the purple seems to always win everyone’s heart.
Many seed companies carry these now, with many available at local nurseries. The pink one is available from Renee’s Garden.