Unique among garden flowers, Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascene) is sure to catch your eye with its delicate sky-blue flowers (they also come in pink and white) floating in a nest of soft green spines. Branching clumps of ferny green foliage grow about fifteen inches high, providing the perfect backdrop for the abundant two-inch blooms. The flowers are followed by unusual balloon-shaped seedpods with little “horns” that give the plant their other common name: Devil-in-a-bush.
Sow these easy-to-grow annuals outside in full sun and well-drained garden soil. Seeds can take several weeks to sprout, so be patient. Putting the seeds in the refrigerator for a week improves germination. Seedlings do not transplant well due to their long tap root. However, that root sustains plants through periods of drought; the gardener need only provide deep watering once a week. Add some all-purpose fertilizer for maximum bloom. If the seeds are allowed to mature on the plant, Love-in-a-mist will readily self-seed.
In cultivation for over 400 years, both the flowers and seedpods are frequently added to dried arrangements, and the aromatic seeds are used as both a spice and a medicine.
Love-in-a-mist is ideally suited for an old-fashioned cottage garden. Try combining the silvery-blue blooms with silver-foliaged plants such as Lamb’s Ears (Stachys byzantina) or one of the Artemisias, or with other pastel hued flowers—perhaps pink or white perennial geraniums. The airy foliage is an excellent gap-filler in a flower border, and also combines well in containers.
Article and photos by Leslie Holzmann, Certified Colorado Gardener