Carolee's Herb Farm

Carolee's Herb Farm

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Sweet, Sweet Alyssum Print E-mail
One of my very favorite annuals is the old-fashioned, much-beloved Sweet Alyssum.  Grown for centuries for both its lacy white flower heads and sweet fragrance, Alyssum maritimum (or Lobularia maritima) deserves its popularity.  It is easily grown from seed, and self-seeds with regularity.  The honeybees love it, as do the native ladybugs, who sip nectar from the minute flowers.  Fortunately, the tiny flowers appear in clusters and are therefore, quite showy.  They are often used for edgings along walkways, along decks, or in containers that are close at hand.  When the sun shines brightly, or right after a rain, the honeyed-fragrance of Sweet Alyssum wafts through the air.

I find the old-fashioned varieties that grow about 6” in height and are pure white have the strongest aroma, and self-seed best.  I planted some along my walk at the top of the deck garden.  Over the past three years, it has self-seeded in spots down the slope, popping up here and there to bloom in Spring,  fading a bit in Summer and appearing again in Autumn right through the first light frosts.   Alyssum prefers cool weather, so it really excels in spring and autumn.  It will often bloom well in partially shaded areas as the summer temperatures soar.

Several years ago, I brought a mixed container into the greenhouse, where the Sweet Alyssum dropped its seeds.  We still enjoy the fragrance from tiny seedlings that pop up through the stones of the greenhouse floor.  They are so welcome, because they often begin blooming long before the farm even opens in April.  What a treat to open the greenhouse door on a frosty morn, and have the scent of the tiny plants reach ones nose!

Hybridizers have worked with Sweet Alyssum to make it more compact (as if 6”-8” isn’t short enough!) and available in more colors.  I must admit that the colors of purple, pink, apricot, and lavender are lovely with other spring pansies, stocks & violas in spring containers.   These colored versions trail only slightly, not as prettily as the white, in my opinion.  Nor do they have the strong scent, but they are nice in Fairy Gardens or other locations where tiny size is important.  The colored hybrids do not self-seed as well either.

White Sweet Alyssum is so desirable, I use it everywhere.  The small white mounds make any other color nearby “pop” and look even brighter.  It is perfect to edge paths in the Moonlight Garden, making it easy for the eye to note the path edges even after dark.   Children love to grow Sweet Alyssum, because it sprouts quickly and smells so good!  And, we know the fairies love it, too.  It’s perfect to make the lacy edge for a “Bride’s Bouquet Garden”, and to press for any decorative project.