Sweet, Sweet Alyssum

Newly transplanted alyssum. It will grow and spread to nearly a foot in diameter.

Newly transplanted alyssum. It will grow and spread to nearly a foot in diameter.

This time of year can be so frustrating! Beautiful days and not enough time to plant half the garden I would like. The community garden is just itching for attention and Sweet Annie was calling my name.

I cheated. While I fully intended to seed-start my little pack of purple alyssum seeds under the grow lights at home, I just happened to run across a marked-down flat at Lowes Home Store. Well, I confess, I was searching for it. Not to purchase, oh no, it would be crazy to pay full price. $16 for a flat vs $1.69 for a seed packet?? However, I love just looking at it.

In the language of flowers, alyssum means “beauty”. Alyssum is a beautiful annual. It grows only a few inches high and best planted 6-8 inches apart. Full sun is best. White seems to be the most popular color, but I have a special fondness for the varying shades of purple in the mauve or purple alyssum.

While I was admiring a purple alyssum flat at the garden center, a sales associate offered to mark it down for me. I was confused, but of course said yes. The associate shook her head and said what a shame the temperature dropped the other night and frost nipped the plants. Hmmm, alyssum doesn’t mind cold Springs like other annuals might. Those tiny little yellow leaves will green again in no time.

I planted my new flowers as a border in the perennial bed of the community garden. I remember reading once upon a time to be careful where one plants alyssum, as it is a bee magnet. How funny, because that is exactly why I plant it! Alyssum is one of the top attractors for beneficial insects, very good to have in a vegetable garden. Welcome bees, and welcome little hoverflies that eat aphids and lay eggs in caterpillars!

I also heard once that one should cut the blossoms off the alyssum after the first blooms finish, in order to keep them from self seeding. The idea is to help them grow another thick set of blossoms before the summer ends. I, however, am happy for them to plant themselves, too.

Alyssum is a fragrant delight to plant and lovely to have nearby while gardening. The varying colors remind me of subtle differences in people, all of whom are more beautiful due to the contrast in the group. In some way, the flowers suggest I improve my tolerance for frost-nipped people who just need a little more time to grow into God’s plan for them. Alyssum also tells me to not believe everything I read. The facts, such as cutting the alyssum back, or not planting it by people, might well be true, but they are not my truth. Knowing the place alyssum holds in my garden is akin to knowing my place in God’s world. I, too, might also be a little frost nipped now and again, but the splendor in the group planting seems not to even notice.

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