The species rose campion, also called rose campy, is a native of Europe. It was being cultivated in English gardens by the 17th century (including cultivating double forms) and in American gardens by the 1700s. According to Denise Adams, the first known mention of the rose campion by an American source is in Thomas Jefferson's garden book.1 Jefferson recorded "Lychnis in bloom" at his boyhood home, Shadwell, in 1767.2 Three color forms were listed in Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon's broadside catalog in 1804, including a bi-colored form called "Painted Lady." Jefferson received seed of "Lychnis" from McMahon in 1807.3
The rose campion is a hardy, early summer flowering biennial or short-lived perennial with brilliant, magenta-colored flowers and contrasting thick, fuzzy, gray-green foliage.
Primary Source References
1807 November 9. (Ann Cary Randolph to Jefferson). "Before I left Monticello they had increased so much as to fill the beds quite full ... Lychnis ... failed ...."4