Nigella damascena

Sometimes known as love-in-a-mist, this frost-hardy Mediterranean annual from the Ranunculaceae family (ht 25 - 50 cm) has a flower comprised of multiple layers of petals held within a cloud of ferny foliage. The blooms appear in mid to late spring and are usually blue, though white, purple, rose and pink cultivars are sometimes seen. They are suitable for cutting for vases. The flowers are followed by quaint seedpods like little whiskered balloons, which are also sometimes used in flower arrangements.

It is best grown from seeds sown directly into the ground in autumn, as it resents being transplanted. Nigella enjoys a sunny, well-drained soil, though will also do fairly well in a partly-shaded site, and benefits from a liquid fertiliser being applied during the growing season. It self-seeds freely, as long as the seedpods are left on the plant until they mature. The culinary nigella seed comes from a related plant, Nigella sativa, which has less showy blooms.

Flowers in September, October, November.