28 July 2017


Nigella damascena
delicate looking but hardy enough for growing on Shaw Island.
Botanical Name: Nigella damascena
Common Name: Love-in-a-mist
Life cycle: Hardy annual.
Native Growing Region: Southern Europe and northern Africa.
Zone: 4-8.
Height: 12"-24"
Bloom time: mid-summer. 
Maintenance: Low.
Water: when dry and fertilize monthly.
Flower: Showy flowers open pale but mature to an intense pure shade of sky-blue such as we all find irresistible. Self-sowing but not a thug. Deadheading spent flowers will extend the bloom period, but will also prevent the development of the attractive post-bloom seed pods.
Cut flowers in the morning to minimize water loss. 
Culture: Should be sown directly by broadcasting seed in the autumn or spring. Resents transplanting.
Days to Sprouting: 10-15.
Uses: Mixed borders, cottage gardens, cut flowers, dried fruits, bedding, and containers. Stems with dried capsules make excellent additions to dried flower arrangements.

Notes: A popular cool weather annual. Flowers are followed by pine green, globular seed pods that have reddish-brown markings.
They like full sun to part shade and ordinary garden soil with excellent drainage. The drying seed capsules can be viewed here

Van Dusen Botanical Garden, Vancouver, B.C:
"A favorite of Victorian gardeners, adds a delicate touch to almost any planting scheme. Seeds of Nigella damascena are NOT edible. The edible Nigella seeds are Nigella sativa."

      Here's a passage from An Island Garden by American author and poet Celia Thaxter (1835-1894), who wrote primarily about the Isles of Shoals, a group of nine small islands located ten miles off the coast of Portsmouth, N.H. Her family operated a large resort hotel on Appledore Island and Celia's presence helped to attract many of the leading artists, musicians, and authors of the day. Celia devoted uncounted hours to her spectacular flower garden. 

"I hold a flower of the pretty Love-in-a-Mist, the quaint Nigella, and scan its charming face. It blossoms late and long and is a flower of most distinguished beauty. It is star-shaped, in tints of white, blue, and purple, with full rich stamens and anthers of warmer red-purple, the petals on the back delicately veined in each variety with fine lines of faint green. The rich luster of stamens is surrounded at the base by eight smaller inner petals in different tints, so wonderful in detail, so ornate in decoration as to be simply indescribable. Each large outer petal is curved and cup-shaped, yet each has its finishing point that makes the blossom starry, and these eight inner petals radiate from the center within, above the larger ones. The foliage, whence it gets its old-time name, Love-in-a-mist, is like a soft green vapor, and in the double varieties, runs up and mixes itself with the petals. The single varieties are much the finest. They have a faint perfume of anise, and they are among the quaintest and most interesting flowers I know."
Nigella damascena
Seed packets now for sale at the
Shaw Island Gatehouse,
Squaw Bay Road, Shaw Island, WA.

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