Plant Taxonomy of Perennial Bachelor Buttons:
Characteristics of Centaurea Montana 'Amethyst Dream':
While 'Amethyst Dream' does exhibit a gray-green foliage that some find handsome, I value the plant mainly for its purple flowers. But their floral value goes beyond mere color: the flowers are unusually lacy, giving them an exquisitely delicate appearance. The centers are reddish.
The unopened flower buds are interesting in their own right; they remind me of little pineapples. Blooming begins in my garden (zone 5) in May and continues through July. Approximate plant dimensions at maturity of this clump-forming perennial: 20 inches tall x 27 inches wide.
Planting Zones for Perennial Bachelor Buttons:
Sun and Soil Requirements for Perennial Bachelor Buttons:
Uses in Landscaping:
Wildlife Attracted by Perennial Bachelor Buttons:
Care for Perennial Bachelor Buttons:
Deadhead after flowering to encourage reblooming in late summer, although the second blooming typically won't be as vigorous as the first one. Since these plants spread via stolons, they can become crowded and so can profit from division every few years.
Likewise, because of the proclivity of perennial bachelor buttons to spread vigorously in some regions (mainly in parts of the North), a portion of your care for this plant may entail checking its advance if you don't want more than what you already have.
As reader, Maurine Greenwald reminds me, the plant is prone to powdery mildew. The preventive care recommended to combat this disease is to provide good air circulation. You can achieve this by planning so as to avoid overcrowding in your flower border and by dividing.
No doubt, the outstanding feature of this plant is its delicate flowers. They display a fine texture that can either be appreciated in its own right or set off against flowers of a coarser texture to create a striking contrast.
The Genus, Centaurea: a Diverse Lot:
Centaurea montana 'Amethyst Dream' is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to types of Centaurea. By the way, if that genus name makes you think of Greek mythology, you're on the right track for its derivation. It is said that the most famous centaur, Chiron, who was much skilled in the medicinal uses of plants, applied Centaurea to wounds to heal them. And there you have the origin of the genus name -- as hard as it is, admittedly to relate such a rugged, hulking beast as a centaur to a plant with such a delicate flower. The specific epithet, montana refers to the plant's mountain habitat in its native Europe.
For examples of some of the different plants that belong to this genus, let's start with the yellow Centaurea called Centaurea macrocephala. The species plant, Centaurea montana has blue flowers -- thus an alternate common name, "mountain bluets" (for a picture, click "More Images" under the photo above). But using that common name can lead to confusion, since there is also a little wildflower named "bluets."
I prefer the common name, "perennial bachelor buttons," especially when referring to cultivars of Centaurea montana that do not have blue flowers (in which case "bluets" does not make much sense as a nickname). The origin of this common name lies in the fact that bachelors traditionally inserted these flowers in their buttonholes when calling upon their lady friends.
Centaurea montana and Centaurea macrocephala are perennials, but, in addition, there is an annual bachelor buttons (Centaurea cyanus). Oh, and just for good measure, this annual (and sometimes the perennial, too) can be referred to as "cornflower." This common name reflects the fact that the plants are a common sight in "corn" (i.e., grain) fields in southern Europe. Aren't you glad we have the scientific names of plants to help us keep all this straight?
Finally, even a notorious weed named "spotted knapweed" belongs to the Centaurea genus. I could go on, but you get the idea: this genus is nothing if not diverse.