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Strange seedpods add spice to summer garden


"Persian Jewels" variety of Love-in-a-Mist includes several pink and purples variations. (Photos: Debbie Arrington)

Love-in-a-Mist produces pretty flowers and a bonus




Are those pod people in my plot? Space aliens have invaded my garden!

No, it's just the distinctive and decorative seedpods of Love-in-a-Mist.

A member of the buttercup family, Love-in-a-Mist is an old-fashioned favorite, native to Southern Europe and Northern Africa. This annual blooms abundantly in late spring and early summer.

Nigella, its botanical name, was derived from the Latin word for black, "niger," and refers to the plant's intensely black seeds. With an oregano-like flavor, those aromatic seeds are used as a spice in Turkey and the Middle East.

The Victorians fell in love with Love-in-a-Mist as a cut flower and for its decorative striped seedpods, which can be dried and used in arrangements. Its nickname refers to the light green, lacy bracts that surround the flowers, which range from white to dark blue, with several shades of pink or purple in between.

The most common Love-in-a-Mist is brilliant blue. Popular varieties include true blue "Miss Jekyll" and "Oxford Blue.
Love-in-a-Mist was popular with the Victorians.
" "Persian Jewels," which started my Nigella collection, features a mix of pink and lavender shades.

The large seedpods are actually five seedpods fused together. More than 2 inches long, they usually start green with purple, burgundy or bronze stripes. As they mature, the stripes fade.

The seedpods are easy to dry for arrangements. Harvest the pods while the stripes are still strong, leaving stems attached. Tie a paper bag around the pods to contain the seeds, then hang them upside down in a dry, airy place out of direct sunlight (such as a covered porch or a corner of the kitchen). The stems and pods will be dry within a week.
Love-in-a-Mist has distinctive seedpods.

Once you introduce Love-in-a-Mist into your garden, expect it to return year after year. This annual reseeds very easily and likes to spread its love around.

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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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