Skip to content

Fantastic Design Plant: Lightning and Thunder for Midsummer Garden Color

Take me into a nursery and I’m a kid in a candy shop. My eyes are naturally attracted to the tall spires of sapphire-blue delphiniums and mounding velvety red roses, but I know that without a solid backbone of foliage, my garden layout will only fall apart from midsummer.

With that in mind, as I went plant shopping this past year, I was decided to start looking for a multi-interest perennial. I wanted blossoms as well as foliage. But to make the battle harder, I needed my choice to be drought tolerant and deer resistant. I was so delighted to locate Thunder and Lightning field scabious, as it fulfilled all my standards with style.

The jagged mint-green leaves are edged with creamy white, giving a new look to the garden even on the hottest of summer days. Deep magenta pincushion-type blossoms add to the display during the entire year, and also unlike the species, this cultivar is nicely compact — therefore it will grace your backyard rather than sprawl across it.

I experimented using it within a foliage-focused container layout as well as planted a set along a path in one of the roughest parts of my backyard. In both scenarios it flourished despite minimal bull and watering endlessly passing.

Skagit Gardens

Botanical name: Knautia macedonica ‘Thunder and Lightning’
Common title: Field scabious
USDA zones: 4 to 7(find your zone)
Water necessity: Low
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: 18 inches tall and broad
Benefits and tolerances: Deer resistant; drought tolerant; attracts butterflies; good cut flower
Seasonal attention: Spring through autumn
When to plant: Spring or autumn

Le jardinet

Distinguishing attributes. The dramatic foliage of this compact perennial is a standout. Deeply cut, soft green leaves are edged with creamy white, adding glow to the garden from spring through autumn.

Skagit Gardens

Magenta pincushion-like blossoms decorate the plant for many months; the deep jewel shade is emphasized beautifully against the warmer foliage.

The best way to utilize it. Even if that perennial never bloomed, its foliage could make it worthy of inclusion in almost any backyard. Mass plants at the front of a border, possibly adjacent to some dark plum stonecrop like Sedum ‘Purple Emperor’ or at the base of a purple smoke bush (Cotinus sp) for three-season drama.

Le jardinet

This field scabious also produces a container plant that is multi-purpose.

The tapestry of foliage revealed here showcases Thunder and Lightning area scabious against black lace elderberry (Sambucus nigra ‘Eva’), lime glow barberry (Berberis thunbergii ‘Lime Glow’) and silver mound wormwood (Artemisia schmidtiana ‘Nana’). With the pale ginger leaves of ‘Pinot Gris’ coral bells (Heuchera hybrid) additional, this blend could easily be planted into the garden.

Planting notes. Field scabious needs well-drained soil and a lot of sun to flourish. Do not add additional fertilizer — plants that are drought-tolerant often do in soils that are thinner.

An herbaceous perennial, field scabious will become dormant in late fall but will be one of the first to grow again in spring.

See related