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Armitage's Garden Perennials: A Color Encyclopediaby Allan M Armitage
Turns out some of these plants grew wild outside Roman stadiums, used for athletic events, like Christians vs. Lions, and garlands of them were used to crown the champion (usually a lion), hence the common name. Several fine annual species are offered, such as the little-known Lychnis x arkwrightii (better known in the hybrid 'Vesuvius') and the wild, ragged L. floscucli, ragged robin, and its white variant 'Alba'.
Without doubt, two species of Lychnis and their selections reign supreme in American gardens. A native of Eastern Europe, Lychnis chalcedonica, the Maltese cross, has been a garden favorite for many years. Opposite leaves, swollen nodes, and the five-petaled flowers — with petals shaped like a cross — show its affiliation with the dianthus family, and indeed the genera are closely related. The common form and color of the flowers is single and scarlet, but double flowers ('Flore Plena'), rose-colored blooms ('Carnea'), and even flowers of puce ('Murky Puce' — now who would name anything "Murky Puce"?) are occasionally seen. New hues for an old-fashioned plant. Full sun, decent soils, zones 3 to 7.
The other reigning species is the short-lived but explosive Lychnis coronaria, rose campion, characterized by magenta to rosy red flowers and gray woolly leaves. It reseeds itself with abandon: individual plants may disappear, but in general, gardeners will find this plant returning year after year. The species has gaudy purple flowers, but several hybrids, in particular 'Abbotsford Rose', subdue the magenta and replace it with bright rose. For more conservative gardeners, a white selection ('Alba') and a bicolor ('Angel Bush') help to make the garden an even more pleasant place for champions. Full sun to afternoon shade, zones 4 to 7.
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