Nigella damascena, or 'Love-in-a-Mist' as it is commonly known, is both beautiful and easy to grow.
'Albion Black Pod' is much less common than the usual varieties, it bears delicate, romantic white flowers with intriguing little green stamens that are surrounded by attractive ferny foliage. At the end of the season, the petals drop and the blossoms transform into little fairy lanterns.
The flowers are followed by dark plum, almost black and very ornamental seed capsules, are held on stiff, 30 to 60cm (12 to 24in) stems. They dry readily and easily, are very decorative and very useful for fresh and dried bouquets. They can also be dried for winter decorations indoors.
Love-in-a-mist grows naturally in rocky places native to Europe and North Africa, however, these flowers are well suited for traditional cottage garden settings or plant in a meadow where the soil is a little on the dry side and not too rich.
A hardy annual flowering the same year, a popular cut flower and useful for bedding. Plant in clusters for best effect. The flowers attract and feed bees as well as other beneficial insects.
Sowing: Sow direct in late Winter to Spring or in Autumn
Seeds are best sown in short drills 0.5cm (¼in) deep directly where they are to flower. Sow thinly, once temperatures reach around 18°C (68°F). They prefer a sunny open site but will grow in most sites and soils.
Prepare the ground well and rake to a fine tilth before sowing. Mark the sowing areas with a ring of light coloured sand and label if sowing more than one annual in the same bed. Sow 1mm (1/8”) deep in rows 30cm (12in) apart.
Seeds germinate in approx 21 days. The seedlings will appear in rows approx 6 to 8 weeks after planting and can be told from nearby weed seedlings quite easily. Thin the seedlings out so they are finally 23cm (9in) apart by early summer. Compost should be kept slightly moist, but not wet at all times.
An early autumn sowing can be made in sheltered areas for earlier flowers the following year. Planted it in the autumn it will send down a taproot and form a rosette of feathery leaves during the winter. As temperatures warm up in Spring, flower stalks shoot up. If it's a dry spring, give it water and it will grow large and erect. Without water it tends to flop over.
Prefers well drained soil enriched with manure or compost ahead of planting. Can be grown on light sandy soils.
Feeding is rarely needed but water well and apply complete plant food as growth begins in the spring.
Deadhead to prolong flowering. Leave a few plants to die down and self seed. Others can be pulled up and composted
To get the best from your Nigella flowers, cut the stems in the morning after the dew has dried. Cut when the flowers are fully open because buds will not open after cutting. Cut the stems with a sharp knife about 3cm (1in) from the bottom of a main stem, at an angle of about 45 degrees as this provides a larger exposed area for the uptake of water. Remove all the lower foliage that would be submerged in water.
Fill sterilised a bucket with luke warm water and add warm sugar water. Place the flowers in the bucket and leave over night to condition before using in an arrangement.
To dry the pods, cut while the pods are still green and somewhat fresh. Tie the stems into a bundle and hand upside down to dry. You can cut the seed pods in half to display the interesting seed chamber structure.
Cottage/Informal Garden, Flower Arranging, Flowers Borders and Beds, Wildflower Gardens or Wildlife Gardens.
Seeds of Nigella damascena have been used over the centuries as an aid in digestion and they are also used in cooking. The seeds taste somewhat spicy, some people note a resemblance to nutmeg, and have been used as a condiment and in confectionery, to flavour wines and snuff, and as an expectorant.
They are far less flavourful than those of Nigella sativa, known as black cumin or fennel flower, which has had a greater culinary and medicinal role than N. damascena.
The related Nigella sativa (and not N. damascena) is the source of the spice variously known as Nigella, Kalonji or Black Cumin.
The genus Nigella is native to North Africa and southern Europe. It is one of about twenty species in the genus, all of them annual herbs from the Mediterranean region. Several are cultivated in gardens, and one, Nigella sativa, is grown for its aromatic seeds.
The genus name is taken from the feminine of Latin nigellus, a derivative of Latin niger meaning black.
The species name damascena, means 'from Damascus'. It originates from the area of what would have been Persia, now Syria.
The plant's common name 'Love-in-a-mist' comes from the flower being nestled in a ring of multifid, lacy bracts. It's also called Devil-in-the-Bush. Jack-in-the-green and Lady-in-the-bower. In German, there are comparably poetic names like Jungfer im Grünen (Danish jomfru i det grønne) 'Maiden in the green' or Gretchen im Busch 'Maggie in the bush'.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 1 gram Average Seed Count 350 Seeds Family Ranunculaceae Genus Nigella Species damascena floraplena Cultivar Albion Black Pod Synonym Cramer’s Plum Common Name Love in a Mist Other Language Names Cumin Noir Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers White followed by large pods Natural Flower Time Early to Mid Summer Foliage Mid Green Height 45cm (18in) Spread 30cm (12in) Position Needs a warm sunny spot Aspect West or South facing. Exposed or Sheltered