Saturday, 3 June 2017

A camp Incredible Hulk, or Love in a Mist?

From the weird and wacky Alchemy Works:
The name of this plant [Nigella damascena] comes from a legend about the Emperor Frederick I (1125-1190), who drowned in a shallow Turkish river as he was leading a Crusade. According to the story, he was seduced by a water spirit with green hair who drowned him in the hip-deep water. This plant sprang up at the shore and displays the water spirit's hair... This magic herb is also known as bride-in-hair from the Renaissance tradition of a bride going to her wedding with her hair down to signify her virginity (lots of Maiden stuff going on here). We normally think of Venus-ruled plants as aids to love spells and such, but this legend hints at a great feminine power. The alchemist and physician Geber recognized this plant's power when he named it as an ingredient in his red elixir. Some of love-in-a-mist's other common names - jack in prison, love-in-a-tangle, and devil-in-a-bush - show that airy-fairy love spells can be as binding and as powerful as the worst hex or curse... In the Victorian language of flowers, which better fits with how this plant can be used for love charms, love-in-a-mist means "kiss me" or "you puzzle me."

...In India, the seeds are used as a sachet to keep bugs out of clothing. Rubbing them releases the scent of strawberry jam, which is what its essential oil smells like. The seeds are used in cooking - flavouring for curry and a sprinkle on bread - and supposedly taste like nutmeg but are nowhere near as good as those of its relative, Nigella sativa (black cumin). At one time the seeds were roasted and an ill person breathed in the "fumes" to "drie the braine," and it is mentioned by Dioscorides and Theophrastus for digestive complaints.
And from the far more practical (and wonderfully tongue-in-cheek) Higgledy Garden:
Nigella is a national favourite flower, a country garden staple, reliable, quirky and undoubtedly beautiful. Though she is a fleeting mistress... staying for a few short weeks before eloping with the vicar and flowering no more.

But what blooms they are, powder puff flowers in white, blue and pale purple relax amongst cool fern like foliage. The flowers soon turn into balloon-like pods with purple stripes. The pods have ‘horns’ which is where it gets another of its common names, ‘Devil in a Bush’.

I love this change it has from flower to pod, it’s nothing short of bonkers and reminds me somewhat of a camp Incredible Hulk.

Here in the extensive gardens of Dolores Delargo Towers, this "fleeting mistress" has sown itself about liberally, and adds a beautiful, frothy understory to the drama of the tall Delphiniums and Foxgloves. And, by happenstance of nature, rather than design, they complement that jonquil-yellow Aquilegia perfectly.

And it looked particularly beautiful in today's glorious sunshine.



  1. "A camp Incredible Hulk"? I shall never look at Love-in-a-Mist the same way again! Thank you, Jon.

    1. It made me hoot! "Benjamin Higgledy"'s blogs are a cracking read. Jx


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