This old cottage garden favourite is still popular today for its reliable displays of blue or white flowers, that appear to float above its fine feathery leaves. The flowers last for around eight weeks in summer, followed by architecturally interesting seed pods.
Family: Ranunculaceae (buttercup
Botanical Name: Nigella damascena
Common Names: Love-in-a-mist, love-in-a-puzzle, love-in-a-tangle, lady in the bower, bird's nest flower, jack in prison, Jack in the green, Katherine's flower, Spanish fennel flower.
Foliage: Deciduous, delicate, finely dissected feathery bracts/leaves.
Flowers: Distinct flowers in single or double forms, with petal-like sepals and bracts. Once the blooms fade they turn into round decorative seed pods.
Flowering Period: July to September.
Soil: Well-drained and cultivate soil (sand, chalk or loam). Alkaline or neutral pH.
Conditions: Best grown in full sun, in a south or west facing aspect, in a sheltered location.
Habit: Upright, bushy.
Type: Hardy Annual.
Origin: Native to Europe.
Hardiness: H3 - Hardy in coastal and milder areas (down to -5). Plants usually die after flowering at the end of the season).
Easy to grow from seed and a prolific self seeder. Needs very little care and attention if growing conditions are right. Sow (March to May) in any well-drained garden soil. Best in full sun but will tollerate some shade for part of the day.
Suitable for town, city or coastal gardens, in beds and borders. Ideal as an infill between other plantings.
Very easy plants to grow, so are an ideal choice
Flowers and seed heads are good for cutting and
drying. Dried Nigella seed-heads make
an attractive material for winter
arrangements. To dry, cut stems from the plant just
as the petals fall, strip off most of the feathery
leaves along the stem and tie into bundles. Hang upside
down in a cool dry place.
No pruning necessary. Regularly snip off the dead or fading flowers to help ensure a continuous supply of new flowers (unless you want the plant to self seed). Cut to ground level when finished.
Generally trouble free
Sowing in March, April or May as an annual or in September/October as a biennial. Autumn sowings will need winter protection under a cold frame or cloche. Repeat spring sowings in several batches to extend flowering season. Thin to a required spacing of around 5-9in (12 to 22cm).
Plants usually self-seed easily.
These traditional annuals have grown in the UK since Elizabethan times. Multi coloured mixtures are available as well as the traditional blue variety.
N. damascena (S. Europe), blue flowers. Height 6-15in (15 to 38cm), spread 9in (22cm). Good forms include:
'Miss Jekyll' has bright blue semi-double flowers.
'Persian Rose' has pale pink flowers.
'Persian Jewels', semi double flowers in mixed colours of pink, blue, mauve and white. Height 15in (38cm), spread 10in (24cm).
'Dwarf Moody Blue' has violet-blue flowers. Height 6in (15cm).
N. hispanica (Spanish fennel flower) has blue flowers
with red stamens. Height up to 24in (60cm)