(Cerinthe major atropurpurea) - Cerinthe, featured at Sissinghurst Castle in England, is actually a native of the Greek Islands. This hard to find annual is decidedly a favorite in plant lovers’ circles. These fascinating and unusually-colored plants have indigo-violet bells rimmed in white that dangle gracefully from bronzy-blue bracts above rounded gray-green leaves. They make a show-stopping color accent in the garden or as cut flowers for indoor arrangements. Approx. 23 seeds/pack. Mature height 2-2.5 feet.
TO START OUTDOORS: In spring, once all danger of frost is past, sow seed directly where plants are to grow in ordinary well-drained soil in full sun. In mild climates, Cerinthe can also be sown in fall for spring blooms. Poke the large seeds into the soil about 3⁄4 inch deep and 4 to 6 inches apart and firm soil gently over them.
TO START EARLY INDOORS: Start seeds indoors in 4 inch pots about 4 to 6 weeks before last frost date. Keep moist, but not soggy and provide a strong light source. Once seedlings are 4 to 6 inches tall, acclimate to outdoor conditions and transplant into a sunny spot, in well-drained garden soil. Thin or transplant seedlings 8 to 12 inches apart. Avoid disturbing seedling roots.
GROWING NOTES: Cerinthe prefers full sun, but can take dappled shade, although plants will be more rangy in habit. Be patient; plants are undistinguished until they come into bloom. By late spring, the dramatic blue bracts will turn more purple at the tips, then the clusters of purple bells trimmed with a white edge unfurl. Grow near pastel cleome or cosmos for an exciting color contrast.