Sweet alyssum

Height: 8-15cm (3-6in)

Planting distance: 23cm (9in)

Features: flowers summer to autumn

Soil: ordinary, well-drained

Site: full sun

Type: hardy annual

Sweet alyssum (Alyssum maritimum, syn. Lobularia marititna) is the only species grown as an annual – all others are perennials. It forms low, dense cushions invaluable for edging beds, filling cracks between paving stones and bringing colour to rockeries or containers.

From early summer till early autumn, sprays of tiny scented flowers, ranging from white to apricot, pink, lilac, purple and red, appear in great profusion. It is easy to grow, tolerating any ordinary garden soil, including poor soil.

Popular varieties:

‘Carpet of Snow’ bears clusters of white flowers and reaches 8cm (3in) high.

‘Easter Bonnet’, 10cm (4in) high, is a bold, glowing blend of white, lavender, pink, rose, mauve and purple shades.

‘Little Dorrit’ has white flowerslike those of ‘Carpet of Snow’ but is a taller variety reaching 15cm (6in) high.

‘Minimum’ has white flowers which form a low carper just 8cm (3in) high.

‘Morning Mist’, 8cm (3in) high, has mixed pastel colours, from white to cream, rose, red and lilac.

‘Oriental Night’ has deep purple flowers and reaches 8cm (3in) high.

‘Pastel Carpet’, 12.5cm (5in) high, has soft pink, violet, mauve, cream and white blooms.

‘Rosie O’Day’ has early flowering, rose coloured blooms and reaches 8-10cm (3-4in) high.

‘Royal Carpet’ has lilac-purple flowers and reaches 8-10cm (3-4in) high.

‘Snow Crystals’, 10-15cm (4-6in) high, produces a continuous display of exceptionally large, fragrant flowers.

‘Sweet White’, 8-10cm (3-4in) high, has an exceptionally strong, honey fragrance.

‘Trailing Rosy Red’, ideal for hanging baskets, tubs and rockeries, has trailing stems up to 50cm (20in) long, and rosy red blooms.

‘Wonderland Red’ has deep red, long-lasting flowers. It reaches 8-10cm (3-4in) high.

Cultivation

Sweet alyssum needs full sun and a well-drained garden soil, provided it isn’t too rich.

Sow thinly in the flowering site from early to mid spring, and thin to 23cm (9in) apart when seedlings are strong enough to prick out.

For early flowering, sow in seed boxes in late winter or early spring, and maintain a temperature of 10-13°C (50-55°F). Prick out into boxes of potting compost and then harden off before planting out in mid spring.

Deadhead regularly by trimming with a pair of scissors to encourage a longer flowering season.

Pests and diseases: Slugs may eat young plants.

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