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Nigella, aka Love in a Mist (nigella damascena)
Nigella is an easy-to-grow annual flower that does double duty by producing a fresh, blue flower and perhaps better, a really cool pod that’s good to use both fresh and dried. But, warning, you only need to plant it once. After that you’ll have them in your garden forever. The pods are great for dried wreaths.
Blue flowers have spidery seed pod precursors coming out of their center, giving the flowers an otherwordly look. Surrounding the petals are fine lacy leaves which are the “mist”.
The original species have nice blue flowers, similar to Bachelor’s buttons. They’re between 1 and 2 in. wide. There are a few varieties that offer different colors like pink, white, and blue and grey variegated petals.
The flowers are fun in a bouquet, but the petals don’t stay on for too long. They fall off so the flower can get to making the cool pod. But not in the vase. So use the fresh flowers and know they’re short-term.
The pods are cute, oval and puffy. They have cream and burgundy vertical stripes. They dry very well with the “mist” foliage around them, and long prongs sticking out from the center. But beware, seeds fall out of them and end up everywhere.
Plants get to 2-3 ft. tall. They’re very well-branched, giving many stems to cut. Foliage is very finely divided and lacy. At any point, once they start blooming, there are blossoms and pods on the plant.
Growing the plants
These are super easy to grow. You can plant them in the fall or late winter. The funny thing is that every time I get them started in a new garden, the first year harvest is not that exuberant. But I let them self-sow (that’s easy because the pods just drip seeds everywhere as you harvest or dead head them). So the next year there are tons of plants, they grow bigger and better, and soon weeding them out is in order.
They like full sun to part shade, regular water, and good garden soil.
Catch the fresh flowers early. The ones you don’t will be your pods quite quickly. Pick the pods when plump. No special drying techniques are necessary, you can cut the stems, place them upright in a vessel and walk away. But if you will use some to incorporate into arrangements or wreaths, keep them separate and loose.
My favorite is the straight blue Nigella damascena. Often sold as Miss Jeckyll, Miss Jeckyll Dark Blue is a dark blue; Delft Blue with blue patches on a lighter background; Persian Jewels Mix has blue, pinks, red, white, and violet colors; and Persian Jewels Indigo is deep and dark.
Another nice nigella is a different species. It’s Nigella orientalis and commonly called Transformer. It has a small yellow flower with very long prongs coming out of the center and it becomes a long pod that matures to a tan with prongs at the top. The stem on this is straight and stiff. It’s a very nice addition to fresh and dried bouquets.
How many plants
Start with a small patch, just a couple of square feet. I promise you’ll have too many every year after that if you aren’t careful.