Legend has it that the Knights of Malta where so impressed with this plant, whose four petaled bright red flowers reminded them of their crest, that they brought it home when they returned from the crusades; it has been a cottage garden staple ever since.

The plant has many names, some of which sound aristocratic, Jerusalem Cross, Maltese cross, burning love, dusky salmon, flower of Bristol, scarlet lighting, fireball, meadow campion, nonesuch, and if you're partial to red flowers, they don't get any redder than that.

It glows like a little fire in the flower bed, no matter how thick the foliage that surrounds it.

The patrician moniker is misleading, the plant is actually very modest, so much so that it naturalizes in abandoned fields, on top of landfills and on the side of the road.

Some say it's invasive, but I had it in my garden for many years and haven't noticed it growing out of control. It prefers full sun but grows well in part shade too, it just doesn't bloom as much.

Don't overfeed it, it's one of those plants that thrive on neglect. It can take pretty good care of itself, it doesn't mind too much or too little rain, it doesn't get damaged by winds and cold temperatures (did I mention it's a native of Russia?) and it has a pleasing, compact growth that makes it a lovely neighbor in a mixed border.

First, I thought there was something wrong with my plant, whose blooms have five petals, not four, but then I found out that the Maltese cross bears both types of flowers. To clarify, when I brought this here beauty home, its flowers had four petals, not five.

Author's Bio: 

Main Areas: Garden Writing; Sustainable Gardening; Homegrown Harvest
Published Books: “Terra Two”; “Generations”; "The Plant - A Steampunk Story"; "Letters to Lelia"; "Fair"; "Door Number Eight"; "A Year and A Day"; "Möbius' Code"; "Between Mirrors"; "The Blue Rose Manuscript"
Career Focus: Author; Consummate Gardener;
Affiliation: All Year Garden; The Weekly Gardener; Francis Rosenfeld's Blog

I started blogging in 2010, to share the joy of growing all things green and the beauty of the garden through the seasons. Two garden blogs were born: allyeargarden.com and theweeklygardener.com, a periodical that followed it one year later. I wanted to assemble an informal compendium of the things I learned from my grandfather, wonderful books, educational websites, and my own experience, in the hope that other people might use it in their own gardening practice.