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Flower is ‘love-in-a-mist’

Threads help give colorful nigella nickname

Nigella damascena flowers come in blue, white, pink, yellow and purple. (Submitted photos / North Carolina State Extension)

Last year as I recovered from surgery, a friend brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers grown from a local lady who grows and sells her own flowers. They were amazing — just stunning and really made my day!

The seed pods on this plant were so interesting as they matured. I hung them and dried them, vowing that I would hunt down these flowers for myself and plant some in my garden to brighten my day throughout the growing season.

I realized these flowers were nigella. This is an old flower, indigenous to south Europe, northern Africa and, interestingly enough, the United States.

It is a genus of 18 species in the Ranunculaceae family.

One of the common names for this beautiful plant is love-in-a-mist.

These flowers come in blue, white, pink, yellow and purple. They grow from 8 inches to 3 feet tall.

The finely divided leaves are reminiscent of fennel, divided into threads, hence the “mist.” They are very lacey and look delicate.

The flowers have five to 10 petals and produce a seed capsule containing many black seeds. If you pick these while still green with purple to bronze stripes on the sides, you can dry them for arrangements and collect the seeds.

Some varieties of Nigella are grown and harvested for culinary purposes, and others are used in medicines and even in cancer research.

I want to grow them for the pleasure they bring out in me as I peruse my garden. They do take me back to yesteryear as they dance in the wind and show off their spectacular colors.

They are a cool-weather annual and do best in spring and again in fall. They do not like the hottest days of summer.

The best way to plant them is to broadcast to disburse them in the garden. You can plan them, but they need less than 1/8 of an inch of soil to cover them.

After the emerge, you might need to thin them — but you cannot transplant them due to their long taproot. Sow them in full sun, with ample water (1 inch per week) and good nutrients.

If sown in the fall, they will bloom earlier the next spring. Also, you can sow them every three weeks in early spring to have bloom into fall. They need room, so do not crowd them in your beds.

To learn more about these lovely flowers, go to http://go.osu.edu/loveinamist.

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