Seeing this gorgeous Lychnis coronaria posted on Facebook by Jane Schofield, prompted me to look into the campion family, about which there is plenty of confusion, because the campions are Lychnis, or Silene: these names are often interchangeable, but not invariably.
Lychnis coronaria (above) is a good starting point, because the RHS declares that it is Rose Campion (it also has the intriguing English name of ‘Bridget-in-her-bravery’ – nobody seems to know where that comes from). The white flowered variety is Lychnis coronaria ‘Alba’ which is indispensable also.
These are not to be confused with Lychnis dioica (red campion) which I think is more usually called Silene dioica, and has another synonym which is Melandrium rubra (though I’ve never heard anybody use this). There are named varieties of L. dioica, but none that I’ve seen are an imorovement on the species, carefully selected.
The other campion I know well is Silene fimbriata (always called Silene I think), which is a great performer In an untidy way, in very deep shade.
There is one more to mention, which is completely different to the others, namely Lychnis chalcedonica, with brilliant vermillion flowers in compact dome heads, which I should like to try. It has English names given to it, of Maltese Cross and Jerusalem Cross. Gerard’s Herball, in 1597: ‘ THere be divers forts of Rofe Campions, fome of the garden, and others of the field: … and firft of the Campion of Conftantinople Lychnis chalcedonica.‘ He says the Germans call it ‘flower of Ierufalem‘. Part of the reason I like Gerard so much is that he is very keen on the ‘ temperature and vertues‘ of his plants, but in the case of L. chalcedonica he just says ‘befides that grace and beautie which it hath in gardens and garlands‘ (coronaria means garlands incidentally) ‘it is for ought we know of no vfe at all in phificke ; for which caufe the vertues thereof are not yet found out.‘ In other words it’s useless!
I forgot to mention Lychnis flos-cuculi, that pretty wild flower (Ragged Robin), which like Red Campion is at home equally in the garden and in the wild.
Finally, here’s a picture of Jane’s delightful combination of Lychnis coronaria with Geranium ‘Rozanne’