Monday, January 28, 2013

Collecting Nigella Seed

I purchased a packet of Nigella, or Love in a Mist, last season thinking it would be a great plant to fill in some empty space in my flower garden.  Nigella is an annual flower that prefers full sun to part shade.  Growing just over a foot high and wide the airy leaves complement larger leaved plants.  My scheme worked well but one packet of seed wasn't enough to cover all the space I wanted.


Nigella will reseed if left to its own devices but I decided to collect some seed to make sure I could scatter it in spring right where I wanted it.

I particularly wanted to collect seed from the plants I have to make sure I got the exact same variety of flower.  These blooms start white with a hint of blue, then begin to darken turning a stark blue and finally almost purple.

These pretty flowers darken to a purple before completely fading away
Buying another packet of seed can sometimes mean the flowers aren't identical to what you already have.  Collecting your own seed from your own plants is the easiest way to ensure you get exactly what you want.

Nigella is a very simple plant to collect seed from.  Once the bloom fades and falls away the seed pod swells up to a very noticable size.

The seed head left behind blows up like a balloon.
Wait until the seed pods are dry and you can hear the seeds rattling inside before collecting the pods.  This year my seed pods were not dry enough to collect from but there was wet weather on the way.  Rather than risk the pods getting wet and moldy I pulled the entire plant from the ground and hung them to dry in the garage for a week or two.

Plants were hung upside down from the garage rafters
It wasn't long before I could hear the pods start to rattle when I touched them.  As the pods dry they begin to open.  Be sure to untie your plants at this stage otherwise all the seed will fall to the floor!

The dried pod starts to crack open revealing black seeds inside
Once the plants were dried I picked the largest well formed pods to collect seed from.  This helps ensure you have well formed and healthy seed.  I found the dried seed heads quite sharp and pulling them apart hurt my hands.  So I decided to put my new screen to use.

This vintage screen was purchased at a local antique shop and I'm smitten with it.  The edges are worn smooth from years of use.  Building a screen like this shouldn't be too hard though.  Some fine wire and a few pieces of wood.  Screens are also available for purchase at various shops like Lee Valley.


Quickly rubbing the pods across the screen tore them apart and the seeds fell through the wire mesh.

I finally found a use for the Walmart flyers!
A sheet of newspaper under the screen keeps things tidy so you can scoop up your seeds afterward.

The stems and pod that didn't fall through the screen were easily tipped into the compost.


Seeds and some chaff were left behind on the paper.


If I had a smaller screen I would have used it to further sift the seeds but in this case I simply sorted the remaining seeds from the chaff by hand.  The black seeds of Nigella are fairly large and easy to sort so it's not a difficult job.  A lot of seed is produced by just a few seedheads so I'll have more than enough to plant up the empty spaces in my garden this coming season.

32 comments:

  1. I am kicking myself for not adding nigella to my seed order! I may have to order again! I am impressed with how easy you made this seem to collect the seeds. And I love your vintage screen! How nice that it's useful, too.

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    1. Holley, these seeds really are easy to collect and the flowers are so interesting. If you like blue I would definitely add these to your garden.

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  2. What a wonderfully efficient system you have. Your screen is the perfect tool (love the plug for Lee Valley, though.)

    NIgella is such a beautiful blue, I can see why you want a lot more of that in next year's garden. Can't wait to see some posts next summer of your big stand of seed-saved Love In A Mist!

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    1. ha ha, the plug is partly a hint to my spouse that I wouldn't mind a set of those screens under the xmas tree one of these days :)

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  3. When I lived on Saltspring island, Nigella grew in the driest, sunniest horrible rather awful bed beneath the back window. It is a survivor..of the most dreadful conditions as we know them. They were not planted by me...but by the original owners of the farm years before...Nigella just kept dropping their seeds and kept on blooming year after year.

    Think here on the east coast..they need a little more help...and your post shows how to help them along.

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    1. I'll be curious to see how these come back next year. I didn't pull all the plants so I'm hoping some seeds spread around on their own.

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  4. Nigella is one of many plants I have on my (very long) wish list for my garden. But this year poppies and sunflowers won, got the seeds already, maybe next year :-)
    Liked your screen, perhaps I might nick the idea and make myself one.

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    1. That screen is fantastic Helene. I used to have a similar one for compost so I know they are pretty easy to construct. Just makes life a little easier if you tend to collect a lot of seed.

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  5. What a great way to dry seeds. I love the look of the seed pods! That screen is brilliant! I'll have to see about making one of those.

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    1. One of the great things about this plant is that the seed pods are as interesting as the flowers are.

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  6. One of my favorite flowers....I tried so many years on the coast to grow them to no avail...

    Then this spring I planted some in a pot, nothing, nothing, add another pack of seeds, until finally 3 little seedlings. Of those I got two seed heads, that I forgot to harvest.

    Well there is always this year....I do love them.

    Jen

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    1. That's a shame Jen, I wonder what the issue might have been. I do know my seedlings didn't show up until later in the season. A longer germination period might be the reason?

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  7. I've got to try this flower, I have never put it in my garden.

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    1. Jason, I discovered these some years ago when I volunteered at a Botanical Garden. Thought they were just the bee's knees then and was so happy to finally grow some in my own garden. Loved them just as much now, highly recommend them.

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  8. I planted Nigella, but the seeds went in rather late. I also made the mistake of sowing them in a bit too much shade. They bloomed, but did so really late in the season. I don't think they had a chance to set seed before the cold frosts struck. I thought that they were really beautiful flowers though and definitely will try them again next year.

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    1. Jennifer, my seeds went in a bit late as well. I didn't even notice the plants until August. I think I'll be trying to get my seed planted quite early this coming spring and hope I get more of show.

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  9. I have some Nigella seeds that I will continue to sow, love the dark almost velvety looks to these seeds.
    I like the screen, very clever idea. I just use my fingers. When do you sow your seeds? In my climate I sowed some in the late fall-- pretending to be Mother Nature. Will sow more in the spring.

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    1. Janet, I think you're spot on. Some advice I got years ago was you should always sow seed when Mother Nature would. So if a plant is making seed and dispersing it at the end of summer or fall that's when you should be planting too. I must admit though that I'm not usually so organized so often seed gets planted in spring as I'm cleaning up beds.

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  10. Marguerite girl you have a great system there for doing the seeds up ! .. I used to grow this but it got lost or over come ? by my perennial lust ? haha
    They are very pretty flowers aren't they ?
    Ah ... my bird spa .. the weather is horrendous at the moment .. high winds and thunder storm predicted .. so they are hiding out just to survive this wacky weather for now .. but I am expecting GUESTS soon ? LOL
    Joy : )

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    1. Joy, what is with this weather right now?! yesterday there were advisories to stay off the roads due to freezing rain, accidents all over the place. Today we're at 10 degrees. By the weekend it'll be back to -10 and snow. I have no idea how to get dressed in the mornings anymore.

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  11. I was only successful growing Nigella once and it didn't reseed. It's a pretty plant , I would love to get it established. Great primer on saving seed.

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    1. Isn't that just the way of gardening! Most people report Nigella grows like a weed in their garden. Funny how some plants do incredibly well in one garden and outright refuse to grow in another

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  12. Nigella is such a pretty annual, I had completely forgotten that I planned to sow some so thank you for the reminder.

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  13. zu Deutsch heißt sie "Jungfer im Grünen". Sie ist wunderschön und lässt sich gut vermehren.

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    1. For those wondering what she said. I believe the translation is - In Germany it is called "Evening in the country". She's beautiful and easy to propagate well.

      You often hear that common names for plants shouldn't be used as they change from one place to another. This is the perfect example of that but I do love how common names for plants are so descriptive. Evening in the Country describes not just this flower but when you might see it and evokes a sense of nostalgia. Thanks for the comment!

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  14. I love and grow Nigella too. Just be careful what you wish for.. in ideal conditions Nigella can self seed to distraction!

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    1. I've heard that about this plant and can understand why. There was an awful lot of seed to be had from just a few seedpods. I guess we'll find out this year if my conditions suit it or not.

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  15. I may have to try my hand at this someday :)

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    1. careful, you just might get hooked on gardening :)

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  16. I've always wanted to grow nigella but had heard it didn't do well in my climate. I've heard the key is to just enjoy them in early summer and reconcile yourself to their early decline. I'm hoping this year to give these beauties a try and to collect my own seed. :o) Love the antique screen!

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    1. Tammy, I always forget that those of you in the more southern states are too hot for some plants. kinda boggles my mind that there's plants that don't want to be that hot. As you point out though, perhaps planting earlier in the year when it's cooler would be more suitable for them.

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