By Michelle Stoffels
03 Jan 2017

If you hear the name Nigella many will think of the gourmet food writer and television personality or for the gardeners amongst us - you think of a plant commonly known as ‘Love-in-the-mist’.  Nigella sativa is also known as Fennel Flower and Black Cumin and this hardy annual plant grows up to about half a metre.  The flowers which are produced during the summer are blue, pink or white and are followed by the most delightful pods.  These pods sit on top of a stem with feathery leaves and can be used in floral displays.  Starting as pale green pods some varieties will darken into a burgundy colour, very decorative.


Nigella is often grown for its seeds which are harvested and used in cooking.  The seeds have also been used to repel insects from clothing and to treat a range of ailments.  All you need do is harvest the finished flower heads and put them in a paper bag, when perfectly dry just rub the paper bag to release the seeds from the pods.  Nigella is originally from India, Turkey and Egypt and it belongs to the Ranunculaceae family which also contains plants such as Delphinium, Anemone, Aquilegia, Clematis and Ranunculus.

The photo with this article isn’t the traditional Nigella, but is Nigella orientalis ‘Transformer’.  This is an unusual version of Love-in-the-mist though it still has the very fine foliage.  We had a few plants of this growing in the Wodonga TAFE nursery and it was interesting to see the flower transform from what you see to a vase shaped seedpod.  I wonder if this is how it got its’ name?

The flowers are beautiful, but small and would only stand out if really mass planted.  I think you would grow this just for interest’s sake and not for any other reason.  The seed pods dry well and are decorative enough to be used in flower arrangements.

This plant is for gardeners who like the unusual.  Seeds are available at specialist dealers and can be sown into punnets or sown directly into the garden during late winter and early spring.  Grow Nigella in a sunny position and make sure the soil is well drain and has had organic matter added.  As with many other annual plants, this little beauty will self- seed.  So you buy it once and can have it for ever.

Diary – Studying horticulture doesn’t necessarily mean full-time studies.  You can pick and choose subjects to suit the time you have available.  Timetables for 2017 classes are nearly ready.  If you’d like a copy – drop us an email at


Written by Deb Delahunty