By Any Other Name

Meet Rose. 

Not that rose by any other name rose, this is Rose Campion.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that her name rhymes with champion, after all, she’s been around for thousands of years.  

Have you seen her?

It’s surprising how many gardens have never invited her to their flowering fashion show. Although she’s not a showstopper, she isn’t necessarily a wallflower either.  She tends to stay in the background, and that’s quite all right with her.  Her real name tells part of her heritage.  Lychnis coronaria –  the Lychnis parts stems from a Greek word meaning “lamp,” thus sometimes Rose Campions have been called Lamp Flower, probably because in ancient times the wooly dried stems were used as wicks for oil lamps.  The Latin word coronaria translates to “used for garlands,” and wouldn’t this flower and stem make the most perfect hair adornment?  Can’t you just see the debutantes waiting for that first dance, full of hope and promise, their attire perfect, and their hair arranged with Rose Campion to complement their dress? 

OK, enough daydreaming and back to the garden.  Rose Campions bloom for about eight weeks from late spring through July.  They grow anywhere from six inches to three feet and will relax to about 18 inches (I like the word relax better than spreading, as I’m very relaxed.)  The single flower that shoots out of the felt-like stem can range from white to magenta, but I’ve only seen magenta.  If magenta is any relation to magnificent, then it’s the right name because the rose campion flower has one of those brilliant colors that force you to look, even though the flower is only about an inch wide.  The leaves resemble Lamb’s Ear (Stachys byzantine) and are one of the softest things your fingers will feel this side of your favorite dog’s ears.  Their hairy silver foliage is striking against almost any other greenery. 

Rose Campion is an easy flower to grow, and will reseed itself just as easily.  She likes cool feet, so put a little mulch around her to keep her happy in summer, and try not to let her feet get wet in the winter as she doesn’t tolerate cold, wet toes.  Great for cut flower arrangements, but just as happy to remain in your garden, and If you let her in, her simple elegance may surprise you, and you’ll be glad when she returns year after year.