Nigella To The Rescue

The forecast said it would be raining for the next two days, so there would be no gardening, it was assumed. But a break in the clouds prompted an outdoor walkabout. A chance to traipse the pathways up and down and all around is never passed up. The thermometer in the vestibule said it was 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so no coat was needed. Besides, feeling the breezes blow through one’s hair is a sensation to be savored if it is not so cold that the trapper hat is needed to protect delicate ears.

Walking to the front yard to see how far the bulbs were coming along and for just a general looksee, we passed by the Fairelurie garden. This area, whose creation was written about here, has been disappointing. In Autumn, the fluffy pink muhly grass, Muhlenbergia capillaris is the cars screeching to a halt to get a better look attraction, as shown in this photo taken October 14, 2011. But the rest of the growing seasons are not as exciting, despite constant planting and tweaking. But sometimes we can’t see our noses for our face.

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Back to the here and now of late winter, down in the gravel pathway just to the right of the grey metal watering can is noticed a robust seedling of Nigella damascena, love in a mist. The opening photo shows a glamour shot of it in bloom, taken May 8, 2012. This is a plant that has sown itself all over here, so much so that it is not even considered when the shopping in your own garden, click here to learn more, commences. Duh!

The vision is for a sea of blue in the Fairelurie, initially to be provided by various perennial blue Salvias ala the Lurie garden in Chicago, punctuated with various lilies, Camassias, Astible, Verbena bonarienses, Vernonia, Seum, Amsonia, Zizia…you get the idea. The vision has not been realized. Yet. Don’t be misled by this shot from May 12, 2010. The blue Salvias have never again looked this good.

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The sky is darkening again, the wind is whistling through the tall pine trees, but the birth of an idea takes precedence over all else, especially a brilliant solution to a long vexing problem. Inside we dash for a change of footwear and garden gloves. And the camera.

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The digging takes place to remove the Nigella seedlings from the prostrate junipers in the center island. It is in this area that the Nigella is indeed a jumble of a jungle, among other spots around and about. Handfuls of babies are carefully lifted with the hori hori knife, being sure to get all of the long tap root.

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These babies hold the promise of the sea of blue so longed for. They are spread throughout the upper Fairelurie, sticking the roots into the slit made by the knife. It matters not how close they are to the arising perennials and bulbs, for these are annuals and will be pulled out after they have flung their shiny black seeds.

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The rains held off just long enough for the job to be completed. There were many good sized plants among many more tiny ones. There should be blooms to continue the show for years to come through self sowing, illustrated by this shot from May 8, 2009. This just might be the solution to the Fairelurie problem. Stay tuned for the big reveal, if there is one, in May!


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22 Responses to Nigella To The Rescue

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Can’t wait to see that sea of blue. I bet you have hit upon the solution of your missing blue sea.

    Hi Lisa, thanks so much for your confidence. It is funny how the Nigella is so common here that I don’t even think of it when needing a garden solution that includes blue! Maybe that it is annual/biennial, too.

  2. Les says:

    Your title made me click hoping tin was Nigella Lawson you were referring to. Oh well, I hope your nigella thrives in its new home.

    HA Les, good one! I suppose her fans will do likewise. I should have included a recipe for rich, buttery, creamy something, just for good measure. Good measure, get it!

  3. Lola says:

    Fantastic. I’m so glad the waters of heaven held off long enough for the transition. I do love blue in the garden.

    Hi Lola, thanks. It has been quite rainy, sleety here this winter. The plants are loving it.

  4. Carol says:

    We could all use more blue flowers in our gardens. They echo the sky!

    Hi Carol, thanks for stopping by. Yes to more blue flowers. That is the battle cry for 2013, more blue!!!

  5. gail says:

    That was such a good idea! The blue sea will be beautiful there…It’s a perfect blue, too. I’ve never tried moving Nigella, but will now. xoxogail

    Hi Gail, thanks. I agree, and wonder why it never occurred to me before! The Nigella does have a taproot, so dig down deeply and make sure it is going to rain, or snow, sleet, ice, soon after replanting. Good luck!

  6. Layanee says:

    And that foliage is a misty bonus almost like the Muhly texture. Anticipation!

    Hi Layanee, thanks. Anticipation makes gardening so sweet, as does having four distinct seasons. Some years are more distinct than others.

  7. Better forewarn your neighbors to check their brakes in case the swath of blue created by the nigella causes the same reaction as the fall muhly grass show. Sounds like a great solution and should be very gratifying to see it come to fruition.

    Thanks Michaele, for your vote of confidence! Our street, which is way off the beaten path and only has 6 houses was a drive by for the locals due to the long standing amazing gardens of my neighbors, who no longer live there and the house is for sale. Folks gave my house a second glance in spring, when the big show of my neighbors was at peak. The muhly blooms in October, not a time of garden viewing here, but those who do see it nearly always stop if I am out there. I do hope the Nigella gives the same effect, only in blue. Not this year since they are scattered, but if they seed about like they do elsewhere, it should be good in future years.

    • By the way, just curious, have you cut back your muhly grass yet? I just starting getting to it today (all the wet weather has thrown me off my schedule) and I feel I am late. I always try to keep it intact longer than some of the other grasses with the idea that by doing so, it gives a self insulating affect.
      I hope whoever buys the home next to you loves gardening and keeps everything up. I’m sure you’ll be a much appreciated source of knowledge to them.

      I cut the muhly down in January, and still managed to decapitate Camassia bulbs growing in it. Next year I am cutting it down in December, especially since there are now the early special daffodils planted throughout. I used to worry about cutting it for the same reason as you, Michaele, but it seems plenty hardy with the drainage here. You could mulch yours after cutting, too. I have done that. It would be wonderful to have a new gardening neighbor, maybe that will happen someday.

  8. your gardens are such a delight to see. That October muhly grass is gorgeous! 🙂

    Hi Karen, thanks so much. The muhly is wonderful in the fall into winter. I am hoping the Nigella can give a spring show that is similar in wow factor.

  9. Christy says:

    Hi Frances! I just LOVE Nigella! I have hundreds of babies in my garden too and you’ve given me a wonderful idea….transplant some of them to other places in the garden. Last year on the master gardeners garden tour there were two flowers that got the most attention…the Nigella and the Poppies. I told all the visitors to write down what seeds they wanted and almost everyone put down these two kinds. I must have given away thousand of seeds (it was a wonderful feeling!!) Those new babies are going to give you that beautiful sea of blue you’ve wanted. I can’t wait to see pictures when they’re blooming!

    Hi Christy, thanks for sharing about your Nigella. It is such a giving plant, seeds have been shared from this particular strain far and wide. I first got them from another gardening friend many years ago, in fact. They produce a lot of seeds!

  10. I have had success with Nigella in Chattanooga…much less with Foxgloves and Poppies unfortunately…Larkspurs and Cleome are also much easier to get going over the long haul! Thanks for the updates!

    Hi Scott, thanks for adding to the conversation here. The annual poppies have done well here in past years, but not recently, for whatever reason. There is little bare ground, well, none, actually, but the Nigella doesn’t care. Larkspur and cleome hate it here, might be the PH.

  11. I hope your nigella spreads with abandon.

    Hi Dee, thanks. It should spread, if how it has colonized other parts of the garden, without zero effort from me, is any indication.

  12. I’m glad you had that light bulb moment. I wonder if Linum perenne would also work in the Faire Lurie garden?

    Thanks, Kathy. Light bulb moments are a good thing, especially when they involve no cash outlays! The beautiful flax plant struggles here, I finally gave up on it. I believe it needs more alkaline soil.

  13. Alison says:

    Oh, I hope you’re successful, looking forward to the sea of blue! Nigella is one of my favorite annuals. I hope it self-sows prolifically in the area.

    Thanks Alison. Nigella is the most fabulous color, and the bloom time is just as long as many perennials, if not longer. It is reliable at self sowing here in other parts of the garden. The question is: Why didn’t I think of this sooner?!!!

  14. Leslie says:

    A wonderful realization! It should look great!

    Thanks, Leslie. It should be grand, but should doesn’t always happen like we expect it to. This idea has a good chance for success, though.

  15. Cindy says:

    Hope you’re soon seeing blue at Fairegarden!

    Thanks Cindy. This is to be the year of blue here!

  16. Donalyn says:

    Well, I’m a fan of both kinds of Nigella – I always welcome it where it decides to show up.

    It took me a minute to get it, but now understand, and I am also a fan of both kinds. Thanks for visiting!

  17. I have got to try this plant. I wonder if it would self-sow up here in zone 5b (or 6a, according to some). I’m eager to see how your plan works!

    Hi Jason, thanks for following along. I believe the Nigella will grow in your area. It is an annual/biennial so hardiness in not an issue. Look for seeds, that is about the only way it is offered. Good luck!

  18. My Salvia nemorosa have not been as robust as I’d like either. My best guess so far is they don’t seem to like crowding and must have full sun all day long.

    Hi Christopher, thanks for joining in the conversation. Many Salvias prefer alkaline soil and ours is quite acidic, but May Night does the best of the blue ones. I should have just stuck with that, but Caradonna is so pretty!

  19. Katie D says:

    I ‘inherited’ Nigella in my garden (6B here in West Asheville) and it has reliably re-seeded every year. I scatter the very cool looking seedpods in various areas of the yard and voila! They look good either with blooms or the pods for a long time and then are easily removed to make way for late summer bloomers. Can’t wait to see pictures of yours!

    Hi Katie, thanks for sharing here. That is the same as the Nigella grows here, sprinkle some seeds from the pretty pods and stand back!

  20. I recently scattered some nigella seeds amongst my phlox and am hoping they grow. I’ve always loved them but have never grown them. I’m hoping they self sow and come back every year. I added a bunch of Caradonna and Rose Queen salvia to my hell strip butterfly garden. It’s hot and dry so I hope they look as good as yours. 🙂

    Hi Casa M, thanks for sharing here. I hope your nigella seeds grow, too. That would be a great combo with the phlox. The Salvias like alkaline soils and ours is very acid. Good luck with your butterfly garden!

  21. I absolutely love the diversity of your garden. The color and detail of each plant really makes it enjoyable to look at. Thank you for sharing. I may start to save wine bottles to add a little art-character to my own garden.

    Hi Charlie, thanks so much. Diverse is one way of putting it! HA There is a lot going on here and I like to try new things and plants all the time, so it is constantly changing. The wine bottles are pleasing to me, for now. A note of advice: You will need more than you think and dig them down deeper than you think. I had to redo my little row twice.

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