A Warmer Snowflake

Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)


Once in bloom, Nigella’s flower bears less resemblance to a dim sum delicacy than it does to a delicate snowflake. With winter snowflakes swirling around my window and icicles forming on the birdbaths and railings, this late spring “snowflake” becomes an especially pleasing reminder of a more colorful –and warmer — season to come. While it blooms in several colors, including lavender, yellow, blue, and pink, I’m especially fond of the white.


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A Flower To Feed The Heart

Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)

The old-fashioned garden annual known as Love-in-a-mist takes its name from the delicate, asparagus-like foliage that surrounds the flowers both in bud and in bloom.

But asparagus doesn’t come to mind when I encounter Nigella’s bud. Instead, I see the shape of my favorite dumpling: char siu bao, a pork-filled delight I first met in San Francisco’s Chinatown, where I was introduced to Dim Sum.

Dim Sum is variously translated as “dot heart,” “to touch the heart,” or “a light touch on the heart.” As part of a garden buffet, Love-in-a-mist provides that touch as well.



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The Tea Party Plant

Borage (Borago officinalis) also is known as starflower or bee bush

Perhaps every dedicated gardener in the world knows about Borage, the Mediterranean plant extraordinaire beloved of pollinators. Useful medicinally and as fertilizer, it also decorates cakes, flavors gin, and stuffs ravioli; every part of the plant except the roots can be consumed.

I’d never encountered it until a friend wandered by while I was photographing wildflowers in her bit of prairie. I pointed to the plant and asked, “What’s that?” She responded by pulling off a leaf and handing it to me. “Here,” she said. “Give it a try.” 

My hesitancy must have shown, and she grinned. “Don’t worry. We don’t use chemicals.” As I nibbled at the edge of the leaf, a familiar taste came to mind. I took a bigger bite. “Cucumber!”

Agreeing, my friend pulled off a flower. “Try this.”  Sweet, almost honey-like in taste, it was delicious. Popping another flower in my mouth, I pondered. “You could make a whole tea party from this plant, with faux cucumber sandwiches and flower decorated cakes.”

I should have expected her reply. “You think I haven’t?”



Comments always are welcome.