Once you see Nigella in bloom, you will always recognise it by its unique mist of airy bracts and foliage. It earns its common name of Love-in-a-Mist from the tangle of ferny, fennel like foliage that forms a mist around the flowers. The airy foliage makes a nice complement to broader leaved plants and is a great filler for use with cut flowers in a vase.
Nigella papillosa 'Curiosity' is a most attractive variety. Deep rich purple stamens that highlight delicate blue blooms are followed by intriguing seed pods. Also known as Nigella hispanica, the flowers grow to around 90cm (36in) in height. It is rather special as a cut flower, and lovely in summer borders too.
Nigella is ridiculously easy to grow. A hardy annual, it can be sow early in spring or sown directly where it is to flower. Sowing to flowering takes just three months. The 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. Once the petals drop, the blossoms transform into little fairy lanterns and the seed pods can be dried for winter decorations indoors.
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
For cut 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.
Nigella papillosa, also know equally as Nigella hispanica is native to Spain.
The genus name is taken from the feminine of Latin nigellus, a derivative of Latin niger meaning black.
The species names of papillosa and hispanica are used interchangeably for this species. Hispanica refers to its origin in Spain and because of this, is commonly called Spanish Love in a Mist. While papillosa is a Latin adjective meaning having papillae, and refers to the presence of unusually long epidermal papillae.
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 750 Seeds Family Ranunculaceae Genus Nigella Species papillosa Cultivar Curiosity Common Name Aka Nigella hispanica, Spanish Love in a Mist Other Language Names Cumin Noir Hardiness Hardy Annual Flowers Blue blooms are followed by intriguing seed pods. Natural Flower Time Early to Mid Summer Foliage Mid Green Height 90cm (36in) Spread 30cm (12in) Position Prefers a warm sunny spot Aspect West or South facing. Exposed or Sheltered