Bridget in her Bravery

I need to share one of my absolute favourite plants, Lychnis coronaria.  Its common names include ‘Dusty Miller’, ‘Rose Campion’ and, the one I only learnt recently, ‘Bridget in her Bravery’.

This suits this plucky little character, who enlivens the June and July garden with magenta sprays of flowers.

Lychnis coronaria
Lychnis coronaria

I discovered this plant through my mum.  She supplied me with two or three plants she dug up and divided about three seconds after I admired it.  From those limp little divisions wrapped in damp newspaper and chucked in the back of the car, I now have dozens of plants.

Lychnis coronaria

The most obvious thing to love is the colour.  I adore magenta flowers, but this plants always has a mixture of magenta flowers in their prime, those with more red in them that are newly opened, and those that are going over and deepening to purple.

Lychnis coronaria, with a more purplish reddish spent flower in the background.

Each flower has a whitish corona at the centre of the flower.  There is slight veining to help direct pollinators to the centre of the flower, where the action is.

Lychnis coronaria close up (2)
Lychnis coronaria

Lychnis has five petals, rather like a buttercup or hardy geranium. The bud opens out flat, and then the petals relax backwards to give insects easy access to the pollen and nectar.  When the flower is newly opened, there is a little protected cone at the centre,

Lychnis coronaria close up (4)
Lychnis coronaria close up. Hands cupping the crown jewels.

But then this opens out to reveal the stamens and stigma (to refresh your biology see A Gallery of Geraniums).  The protective spikes produce a little crown, or coronet, at the centre.

Lychnis coronaria wearing a tiara.

Lychnis petals have a velvety texture, and there is a slight iridescence.  These dew-drops show the bumpy surface of the petals.

Lychnis coronaria (3)
Lychnis coronaria with dew drops.

The name ‘Dusty Miller’ references the silver-white stems, which are soft and furry, like felt.

_6290180 (1)
Lychnis coronaria, wearing woolly bed-socks.

The flower-stems are stiff, and bounce back if you knock the plant.  They can reach about a metre in height.  If you deadhead individual flowers, then the spray will keep extending and producing more flowers for several weeks.

In reality, this becomes a bit tedious, and I generally let Lychnis set seed, or I cut off the stems when there are more seedheads than flower-buds, and the stem is looking dry and wizened.

Lychnis coronaria (2)
Lychnis coronaria

It is worth sometimes lying on the grass so that you can see Bridget-in-her-Bravery against a blue sky.

Lychnis coronaria and blue sky (2)
Lychnis coronaria and blue sky

Lychnis is fabulous with purple Salvia.  Here it is with Salvia x superba:

Salvia x superba and Lychnis coronaria
Salvia x superba and Lychnis coronaria

I adore the marvellous clash here with Rosa ‘Summer Song’:

Rosa 'Summer Song' and Lychnis coronaria
Rosa ‘Summer Song’ and Lychnis coronaria

This is perhaps my favourite, with Geum ‘Hilltop Beacon’.  It is like the Geum has whispered something wicked and the Lychnis is revelling in it.

Lychnis coronaria with Geum 'Hilltop Beacon'
Lychnis coronaria with Geum ‘Hilltop Beacon’

Lychnis foliage is a little rosette of furry leaves.  They spend most of the year looking like a moth-infested woolly blanket.  For a brief period in spring, up shoot some new erect leaves and some ever-extending flower-stems.  Then one day at the end of May, out will pop these little bursts of marvellous magenta.

It is at the top of the plant where you want to settle your eye, so plant Bridget with partners who will disguise her flea-ridden derriere.  Salvia, Geraniums, Geums and Aquilegia will all do the job.

Lychnis coronaria and Salvia nemerosa 'Caradonna'
Lychnis coronaria and Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’

Lychnis likes a light, sandy soil, but does pretty well for me in clay.  It will tolerate drought well.

Lychnis is a short-lived perennial, so will dry up and keel over after two or three years.  It can be propagated either by letting it set seed, which it will do fairly generously, or by crown division.  This is a gardener’s way of saying dig it up and pull it apart.

It can be difficult to get enough root with each section, and sometimes you will have sad little disasters where you accidentally pull off leaves and no root.  Such is life: don’t berate yourself; you were only doing your best.  As I read on a classroom wall the other day, ‘Mistakes are proof that you are trying’.

Lychnis coronaria with Geranium psilostemon. A celebration of magentas.

Do you grow Lychnis?  Does it do well for you?  Does anyone have any other common names for it?

I must give credit to my very arty eldest daughter who took both the header image and the blue sky image.  I owe much to her more creative eye when setting up a camera angle.

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors.

If you would like to join the joy, click on the ‘Follow’ button at the end of this post. You will receive an email each time I post a little pop of wonder.

22 Comments Add yours

  1. photosociology says:

    These are beautiful photos, and I love all the information that you provide.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you! It’s funny where a photo can take you! I wouldn’t have learnt all that info without the photo.

  2. Lovely photos! Do you take all your photos now with your macro lens or do you switch back and forth?
    I grew this plant years ago when I lived in Maryland, but haven’t tried it or seen it at garden centers since I came to Ohio, I’ll have to look for it. Thanks for reminding me how lovely it is.

    1. Ali says:

      I mainly use my macro lens, but I do switch back to the multi-purpose 14-42mm lens the camera came with for long shots, and where I want a wider focus.

  3. Emma Cownie says:

    What an absolutely fabulous colour magenta – it deserved all these excellent photos.

    1. Ali says:

      It is the most magenta of all my magenta flowers!

  4. I love these too. I collected seed from mine last Autumn and planted them this Spring and ended up with loads of little plants – too many for my garden so I’ve been giving them away to my piano students! But I kept a few and planted them out last weekend so hoping for another good crop next year. Thanks for the tips about covering up the ‘derriere’ I’ve been wondering about that as it does get very messy!

    1. Ali says:

      Ah, glad someone else is spreading them around!

  5. I love Lychnis too. She is very happy among her assorted friends in my front garden. 🌼

    1. Ali says:

      She is a sociable sort, isn’t she?

  6. bcparkison says:

    Beautiful. I just love how the flowers direct the pollinaters to the good stuff.

    1. Ali says:

      It is so clever, isn’t it?

  7. gaiainaction says:

    Absolutely beautiful, love the colours and the vibrancy of these flowers. Lovely blog post.

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you, I am really pleased you enjoyed it.

  8. Yes, a couple of plants of this were in the garden of the last property we owned. I’ve also seen them growing ‘wild’ near Arrowtown years ago, must have self=seeded from people’s gardens I guess! I love the magenta flower colour and the silver-white stems. Liz, New Zealand.

    1. Ali says:

      Yes, they do self-seed fairly readily, sometimes in the most inauspicious circumstances!

  9. Love them with the salvia! Such zingy colours.

  10. Your color pairings are delicious!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you Melissa!

  11. I love Lychnis, although I didn’t know it’s name, so thank you!

  12. Charlotte says:

    This marvellous beauty was introduced to me many years ago on my allotment as “Wild Campion”. I had only ever seen it as centre piece in a small paved over front garden of terraced houses. Since then I discovered a white variety in a small church garden in Guildford. I wish I had taken some seed heads. My daughter is the next generation of admirers.

    1. Hi Charlotte, yes, the Sissinghurst white garden has the white variety so maybe it can be tracked down?
      So lovely that your daughter appreciates it too! It’s triumph of parenting if your children appreciate nature!

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