NIGELLA – love-in-a-mist

These popular annual flowers are best known for their pastel-coloured petals and feathery foliage spurs. Attractive in the mixed border and in flower arrangements, their dried seedheads can make winter displays.

Suitable site and soil. Plant in an open, sunny position in fertile, well-drained garden soil.

Cultivation and care. Dead-head if seedheads are not required for drying, and to encourage continuous flowering and increase flower size.

Propagation. Sow seed into flowering site in autumn or spring. Nigella self seeds abundantly if seedpods are left on the plant. Thin out seedlings to 23cm – 9in in spring. In cold districts, seedlings may need winter cloche protection.

Recommended varieties. Nigella daTiwscena ‘Miss Jekyll’ has blue, semi-double flowers. Combine it with the white form ‘Miss Jekyll Alba’. ‘Persian Jewels’, also with semi-double flowers, is a mixture of mauve, lavender, rose purple, white and blue flowers. ‘Red Jewel’ offers a single colour, deep rose. All suit mixed borders and offer an old-fashioned, cottage garden look. They grow up to 45cm – 18in and need staking. For the front of the border, use ‘Dwarf Moody Blue’ which grows to 20cm – 8in and makes an attractive path edge. N. kispanica grows to 60cm – 24in with large, slightly scented blue flowers with red stamens.

Pests and diseases. Generally trouble free.

CUT AND DRIED

Nigella seedheads make attractive material for dried arrangements. Cut 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 to dry.

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