Sweet Alyssum: Growing a Namesake

Alys Milner (Lancaster)

Alys Milner (Lancaster)

Sweet alyssum is easy to grow.  True to its name, it has a light honey-scent, with tiny white flowers that grow close to the ground.It’s intoxicating.

Alyssum is an annual, starting small, then spreading a foot in diameter by late summer. When I want it to grow in a certain spot, I’ll buy a six-cell pack. It easily self-seeds, so I often scatter the spent flowers around the garden in the fall, then enjoy what comes up and where the following year.

As I was plucking weeds in the side yard this week, I noticed at least two dozen alyssum seedlings. I’m sure I pulled out one or two in my zeal to rid the dirt of pesky weeds before I realized what they were. I made a hasty retreat.

My garden is not complete without Sweet alyssum and here’s why:

  • I’m named after my father’s sister, Alys, a fashion mannequin in the 1920s.
  • My father was an English horticulturist.
  • My former boss called me ‘Sweet Alys’

What better flower to honor my father and aunt than ‘Sweet alyssum.’


Sweet Alyssum

What’s in a name:

  • The spelling of Alys dates back to the 1600s. In Welsh the name means ‘of the nobility.’
  • Sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) originated in Greece.

10 thoughts on “Sweet Alyssum: Growing a Namesake

  1. All of what you wrote is so sweet. I love the fragrance of sweet alyssum. You and I love many of the same flowers, like daphne and hydrangea. You have good taste in plants and flowers!


  2. One of my favorites too. Planted it in the more protected spots in my son’s yard in the high desert outside LA, It doesn’t like the dry or high winds. But I too noticed the seeds had spread the next year around the yard. I’ve been afraid to ask how the plants are all doing since I left.


    • It must have been hard to leave a garden behind, Marlene. I know it would be for me.

      Let’s assume all is well. I did read that Alyssum doesn’t like the heat. It explains why mine suddenly looked so spent around the 4th of July. I love that honey scent. Mmmmm.


  3. I can’t wait to have a yard to plant drifts. I’ll be sure to tuck it into my baskets this year though if we are still here (ugg). I tend to enjoy the white -vs- violet, what colour have you been planting sweet Alys (what an adorable boss you had). I was reading about Snow Drift at the link, that might be a good one to look for, although at our greenhouse’s there’s rarely a big choice. Your Aunt was a stunner, did you see her often growing up? I’ve never heard that term before ‘fashion mannequin”. The Queen Of The North, wow your dads family must have been excited about that. You obviously have inherited that family gene in spades. xoK


    • I prefer white Alyssum too. The purple tends to be smaller and less vibrant. I usually plant ‘carpet of snow’ which is common here.

      I didn’t meet my aunt until my 20s believe it or not. She lived in England her whole life, and usually traveled to Spain and Portugal for the holidays. We couldn’t afford to fly there, especially after dad died, so we always stayed in touch with letters and postcards.

      After her husband died, she took a world cruise with a port of call in San Francisco. We drove up to meet her and had lunch. I traveled alone to Europe in 1989 and spend several days with her then. We invited her to fly here for our wedding but she declined. She was getting up in years by then. I spoke to her on the phone a few times, and last talked with her about a month or so before she died. She was an interesting woman. She was 95 when she died in 2008, just eight weeks before our mom died at age 89.


  4. I’m glad you got to meet your namesake, otherwise you’d might always wonder. Wouldn’t it be great to live in Europe? If only for the holiday opportunities. My cousin is working for 4 years in London and they’ve had amazing vacations to Scotland, Italy and a Mediterranean cruise. Where we you traveling when you went?

    95 seems like a nice long life if you can be healthy. The odds are against us, but I know it can be true. Did your mom ever get married again? My dad was only 67 when he passed away. Lucky to have spent so much time together, being that we lived in the same city. xoK


    • I’m sorry to hear your dad was so young when he passed. You two were very close. I know how much you miss him. Mike’s parents were also very young (68 and 72). My dad was in his early fifties (my age now!). Mom was the only one of our four parents to live a long life.

      Yes, I would love to live in Europe. It’s an amazing place. How wonderful for your cousin to have such a long stay there. It’s much easier to visit other European countries when you live so close. The trains are fabulous, too.

      I went to Europe alone with a backpack in 1989, just before I turned thirty. I was in a ho-hum relationship, blah job and had few commitments, other than a pair of cats. My friend stayed in my apartment for three months so I could keep my place and have someone care for the kitties. I traveled with a back pack, a Eurail pass and a youth hostel pass. I had the time of my life, met interesting people and really developed a sense of self-sufficiency. I managed 11 countries in eight weeks: England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland, France, Switzerland, Brussels, Bruge, Germany, Spain and I forget the last one. So. Much. Fun.


      • Sorry Alys, this message seemed to get lost in WP Land, just seeing it today. I should check that darn Unread file everyday….geez.

        Thank you for your sweet words about dad, we were great pals. I know how lucky I was too when you had such a short time with your dear dad.

        Your trip sounded so liberating. It reminds me of that movie “Under The Tuscan Sun” with Diane Lane. Good for you. I bet you have wonder memories. Too bad you weren’t blogging then. I wondered if the other country was Italy? We’ve been to a number of the countries on your list. I was just talking about Brugge with another gal today. I thought it was so gorgeous there. Switzerland seemed like a place I could so easily live. We haven’t been to Ireland or Scotland but maybe someday. I’d really love to go. I also got married much after all my girlfriends and ended up doing a lot of stuff on my own…..didn’t backback to Europe though, that’s really adventurous!


  5. Pingback: Indexing the Garden: It’s a Whole New Page – Gardening Nirvana

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