By Penny Woodward

Deep blue love-in-a-mist flower

The striking blue flower of love-in-a-mist

A beautiful delicate-looking annual with feathery blue-green leaves, love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) reaches about 40cm in height and despite it’s looks is surprisingly tough and easy to grow. It can be grown from the tropics (in winter) to cold temperate regions thriving in most soils as long as they are well-drained.

White flowered love-in-a-mist

White flowered love-in-a-mist

Blue and white love-in-a-mist

A blue and white form

Love-in-a-mist gets its evocative name from the way the flowers hide in the ‘misty’ foliage. But obviously not everyone felt about it in the same way as it was also known as devil-in-the-bush and Jack-in-prison. Other early names are St. Katharine’s flower, fennel flower, love-in-a-puzzle, gith and nigella. It the language of flowers, it means perplexity. Sow seed into containers in autumn and winter and transplant once the seedlings are big enough to handle, planting in clumps for a more dramatic effect. Flowers appear in late winter and spring and once established this flower will self-sow and come up in the same position, or nearby, year after year. In very warm regions, protect from the hot afternoon sun. Flowers are usually many different shades of blue, but there are also white, pink and burgundy flowered forms. Both the flowers and unusual seed head look wonderful in flower arrangements, and the flower is edible. The original form of this flower N. sativa, also known as black cumin, has flowers that are not as showy, and is grown for its black, peppery, aromatic seeds that are used as a spice. Seed of both is available from most seed suppliers.