Pink seed strains of Nigella damascena seem to be increasingly fashionable at recent British flower shows. It’s a quirky flower, by any standards. Layered petals wheel around a crazy eye above lacy bracts.
The complex, decorative flower form has inspired many folk names. I use love-in-a-mist, but you may know it as love-in-a-tangle, love-in-a-puzzle, kiss-me-twice-before-I-rise, Jack in the green or lady in the bower.
Love-in-a-mist seed strains to look out for include:
Nigella damascena ‘Persian Rose’ – soft vintage pink shades.
Nigella damascena ‘Persian Jewels’ – mixed pink, mauve, blue and white flowers.
Nigella damascena ‘Mulberry Rose’ – mid pink with hints of purple
Nigella damascena ‘Miss Jekyll’ – award-winning blue.
Nigella papillosa ‘Delft Blue’ – white flowers, heavily mottled blue; purple pods.
My favourite pink is Nigella damascena ‘Persian Rose’. The buds open a creamy-green colour and gradually pinken. (I would say like the cheeks of my sweetheart when he realises he’s said something he ought not to have, except he doesn’t start out green and the process is rapid.) The colour is described antique or vintage, which I interpret as softish pink with a touch of grey.
Love-in-a-mist is a classic choice for cottage gardens and cutting gardens; the RHS also recommends them for coastal gardens. Fine, feathery foliage makes it a beautiful filler for a cottage garden style bouquet and it has much the same effect in the garden. Nigella’s decorative seed pods are also prized by floral designers. The picture below shows blue Nigella damascena in a flower meadow, the foliage reflecting the sunlight.
Love-in-a-mist is an annual, which means that the plant completes its life-cycle from seed within a year, fading away after it flowers and sets seed. It needs a sunny spot. You can extend the season of colour by sowing sequentially from early spring, scattering seeds over the same area several times, two or three weeks apart.
If you’re happy for nigella to self sow, leave some of the ornamental seed pods on the plants for the wind to shake free. If not, gather before the seeds ripen, enjoy the flowers or the pods in a vase or hang bunches of seed pods upside down somewhere dark to dry.
The pink love-in-a-mist flowers in these pictures were exhibited by Avon Bulbs at the Hampton Court Flower Show. You can source pink Nigella damascena seeds from them if, like me, you find their colour alluring.