It’s one mystery solved as another puzzle takes root

Corncockle. Picture by Tom Pattinson.
Corncockle. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

I’m occasionally asked by an acquaintance if the piece of plant material they’re holding can be rooted.

Sometimes it’s the stem of a flowering plant that’s been in a bunch, or bouquet from a wedding, special anniversary or similar. Behind this lies a wish to perpetuate a living memory of the event.

So when a friend explained that she’d received a packet of unnamed seeds, one of several handed to guests at a wedding, she had the full attention of a gardener who loves solving mysteries.

I was subsequently handed one of her potted seedlings and promised to raise it to maturity, confirm the identify and report back.

The tiny plant seemed to have the characteristics of an annual flower so it was placed in the cold greenhouse and offered a small cane for support as it grew. At the beginning of May it was transferred to a raised herb bed outdoors and thrived in their company. Then last week, four months after receiving the plant, the first bloom opened — a wild cornflower (Centaurea cyanus).

But the mystery deepened when a totally different flower, corncockle (Agrostemma githago), was noticed emerging from a similar plant intertwined with the centaurea. This was traced back to soil level where the two specimens appeared to be attached.

Neither of these wild flowers has appeared in the garden previously so one can only assume they met as seeds in the packet, became stuck on each other and ended up making my day!