Starball pincushions

Starball scabiosa

In the category of strangely beautiful,
I nominate starball scabiosa (Scabiosa stellata). If you take a closer peek at its ball-shaped seed heads, you’ll understand the source of its common and botanical names – tiny black stars surrounded by papery cups. The seed heads sit on stout stems that stand up to 70cm tall and the whole plant is covered in fine hairs. Add bonus points for powder blue flowers – although if you pick the flowers you won’t get the seed heads. Pictured above is one of the seed heads in my garden, and just peeking in the background, top and bottom, are the blue flowers; the photo on the right shows a bouquet by the girls at Saipua which includes the starball.

Bloom time is from summer to autumn and both flowers and seed heads appear at the same time. Once picked, these everlasting pods can be included in fresh bouquets or dried flower arrangements.

Starball scabiosas thrive in well-drained soil that’s neutral to slightly alkaline. They grow best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.

Seed is available from Kings Seeds.


  1. Hi Jane, I Love reading your column, as a commercial asparagus grower whose job is also her hobby I adore growing things. I havent experimented much with cut flowers but your weekend column on wedding flowers really struck a chord with me. My daughter plans her wedding in late January (at home, in the country) and i would like to grow her flowers. She fancies white/ green flowers (aaarrrgh why not sunflowers???) so I have been checking out the Kings Seed Catalogue and the Egmont Seed Catalogue and have seen lots of beautiful cut flowers which have me inspired. Can you recommend any in particular? Egmont gives a clue of days from sowing to flowering, but Kings dont. I have 120-140 days. Hope you can give me a helpful suggestion
    kind regards

  2. Hi Margo
    I would order your seeds quickly and start sowing now. Even though the packet may say (as an example) 100 days from sowing to flowering, I’d give yourself way more time than that to allow for bad/cold weather, which can check growth. Most annuals flower prolifically, so even if yours flower way before the big day, you can simply deadhead them to encourage them to keep blooming. Sow way more than you think you’ll need and sow them in succession – once a fortnight for a couple of months.
    There are probably more white and green flowers than you think. In the green corner there are the seed heads of starball scabiosa (pictured above), the glorious bells of Ireland (Molucella laevis), rosette-shaped succulents (they look superb in bouquets), green zinnias, and you can even use the green central cone of the annual Rudbeckia ‘Praire Sun’ (just pluck off the gold petals). The starball scabiosa is a superb plant, easy to grow and a fabulous back-up plant, as you can pick the seed heads well in advance and they’ll keep for an eternity!
    And don’t forget foliage for green accents. Geranium, Alchemilla mollis, eucalyptus (for a grey-green look) and camellia leaves are all great fillers. There are many more leaves you can use, of course. Flax leaves bent into loops look great in bouquets. And any seed heads that you have on hand can be painted any colour that suits.
    For white flowers there are roses, snapdragons, cosmos, dahlias and love-in-a-mist. Bear in mind, though, that the bouquet doesn’t need to have too many flowers. Using just one flower and a couple of different foliage accents can look striking. Go to the site below (copy the link into a new browser) and check out the green and white bouquet from Bloomsday Flowers, which uses one flower – the rose – and a couple of different types of foliage. Good luck!

  3. I love the second shot and the spdeir lily..You might know the names of some that I have posted, coz I don’t know them. Hope to see you!

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