06 October 2012

Sweet Alyssum is a mustard or Brassicaceae

Well, who knew? Or, remembered? Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is in the same plant family as the Brassicaceae that make it to our table at mealtime, including chard, kale, Brussels sprouts, etc.

They are cold hardy in zone 9 and above which makes them an annual in most of the U.S. and indeed most of the Northern Hemisphere. Native to the Mediterranean, Turkey and Southern Europe, we usually plant seeds in pots in late early March to put out in April after last average frost.

Alyssum murale is Yellow Tuft, native to Canada and cold parts of the U.S.
Alyssum Carpet of Snow
Propagate by seed in the garden or indoors 4 to 6 weeks before last frost. Do not cover the seeds - they need light to germinate.
Germination temperature: 55 F to 75 F  Days to emerge: 14
The name Lobularia means "small pod" for the miniature fruits or seed pods.

Even more amusing is that Alyssum (190 species by the way) means "not madness" from when Alyssum was an herb taken to cure rabies. At one time is was called Madwort.

The maritima part of the Latin name means of the seaside. The sweetest of the common names is Carpet Flower.
Alyssum Easter Basket
Butterflies and syrphid flies love them; deer do not. 

Because I'm considering growing them as a groundcover for spring bulbs, I researched seed vendors

Alyssum or Lobularia maritima seed resources
Landreth - 1/4 pound $27.
Everwilde 1/4 pound $7.36 (Everwilde advertises on Amazon 1/4 lb for $8.83 - what?)
American Meadows 1/4 pound $7.95 (Seeds per lb 1,133,980 - exactly?)
Outside Pride 5,000 seeds $7.99
Wild Seed Farms1/4 pound $9.00 (Seeds Per Pound: 1,270,00)

Alyssum Easter Bonnet lavender
  Lots of vendors sell the seeds online at EBay and Amazon and the like, but I'm never sure about those supplies. Do you buy from online seed vendors? Are the seeds viable and reliable?

And, I bought one of those 1,000 wildflower seedpacks from an unknown online vendor and there were nowhere near a thousand seeds in that packet. Shipping price was not cheap.

There is a pdf from Harvard that contains much more Alyssum information if you enjoy digging deeper http://arnoldia.arboretum.harvard.edu/pdf/articles/1628.pdf

From Cornell
http://www.gardening.cornell.edu/homegardening/scened548.html
Varieties come in different shades of purple and pink, varying heights and spreads, some with double flowers (on varieties that florists use) and some with larger flowers.
Alyssum Snow Princess
'Snowdrift': white flowers are larger than traditional alyssum. Grows from 3 to 6” tall. (note - all the photos of Snowdrift are from the UK) ‘Easter Bonnet’ Series: blooms earlier in the season and retains its mounded shape and attractive appearance longer into the growing season than traditional alyssum. White, purple and pink shades for flowers. ‘Basket’ Series: these plants spread quickly, and are grown especially for hanging baskets. Flowers in shades of white, pink, purple, yellow and peach. ‘Aphrodite’ Series: white, yellow, peach, purple and pink shades for flower colors. One of the few annual alyssum varieties with yellow blooms. ‘Wonderland’ Series: purple, white or pink flowers on compact (3 to 6” tall) plants. ‘Snow Crystals’: flowers are white and larger than traditional alyssum flowers. 'Rosie O’Day': early blooming, 4” tall plant with spread of nearly 1’. Rosy red flowers hold their color long into the growing season.
Alyssum Trailing Rosy Red
‘Trailing Rosy Red’: rosy pink flowers on long, trailing plants. Excellent for hanging baskets.

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