I’ve been tying up the loose ends of summer this week. Making tinctures, getting ready to press some that I made earlier in the summer, and now I’m starting to collect some seeds. Nigella damascena, affectionately known as love-in-the-mist, is really easy to grow, keep alive and then reseed. Perfect for beginners in the garden. It jumps around the garden, sure, but it doesn’t take over or even seem to travel that far away from the garden’s edges. Don’t confuse it with Nigella sativa, it’s medicinal counterpart, this garden relative is not going to help your asthma or digestive complaints!

IMG_1383I’ve seen this plant grow in the shade or the sun, but it prefers sun. I’ve also seen nigella grow quite large with water and grow to about 3 inches high if growing in a dry crack in the sidewalk. Either way, it still blooms – such a tough guy! My front garden was full of self seeders this year, nigella, california poppy, violets and the persistent pink valerian were all tangled together. I cut the seed pods off for harvesting after I cut them down for the year.

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The whole plant in bloom is an architectural phenomenon and the seed pods definitely hold to that perfection as well. Here’s an individual one that’s easier to see.

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At the top of the seed pod there are tiny openings that form as the seed pod dries out. They make a rattling sound and are really fun to play with, send your kids out to sow the next crop!

A lot of the seeds will come out of the pod if you hold it upside down and give it some firm shakes, but sometimes you will have to crush the pod to release the 5 different seed chambers. The ones I crushed today ranged from 5 to 30 seeds per pod, pretty impressive. I sat there and crushed that whole bowl. Completely obsessive. Well, I did take a break while my neighbor was screeching at somebody over the phone for about 20 minutes. I know things were sounding idyllic and country like, but don’t forget – I’m really tucked into the city here.

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My plan is to make seed packets to give to people as gifts. Who wouldn’t like getting a little seed pack labelled love in the mist? Especially since it’s so easy to grow.

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Oh, and one more thing, I discovered that you can easily separate the leaves and pod casings by blowing lightly into the cup or bowl you’re collecting in. It is strangely satisfying. But then again I am an only child.

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