Thursday, August 25, 2005

Don't Cast Aspersions On Nasturtiums

Cheap and cheerful and requiring no skill, nasturtiums are the Pot Noodles of the plant world.
You poke the large seeds half an inch into the ground and forget about them until they appear in your garden in the summer like brash and colourful people that you sometimes meet at bus stops.

I usually pop a few seeds into hanging baskets and (second from top) tubs of Busy Lizzies - another plant despised by gardening snobs - where they eventually push their way through like drunken teenagers standing up and waving through the sun roof of a car.

As with most things, there's a downside to nasturtiums. They do best in poor soil and if you don't have poor soil or are growing them in tubs of compost they tend to produce enormous leaves which obscure the flowers so I end up pruning the foliage. A worse problem is that they are very prone to diseases like blackspot and attacks from caterpillars. I've noticed this year that disease is less of a problem when they're mixed in with other flowers.

It's worth buying nasturtium seeds from a seed firm because they have many more varieties than you find in your local supermarket. I particularly like some of the traditional varieties like Empress of India, Cherry Rose Jewel (third from top) and Mahogany Jewel.
Whirlybird, which are widely available, have the advantage that the flowers rise well above the foliage.
This year Thompson and Morgan introduced a white variety (Milkmaid) and a black variety (Black Velvet). In reality, the white is pale cream (bottom pic) and the black is dark red but they are attractive mixed together.
Climbing varieties are also good if you want a trouble-free climber for a wall or trellis and these benefit from being started indoors in early spring to give them a head start.

The top picture is 'Whisky and Ice' from Messrs Unwins.


At 7:31 AM, Anonymous Canute said...

The leaves are excellent in salads.
They taste similar to water cress.

At 10:23 AM, Blogger Urban Chick said...

a flower/plant i might not kill from a lack of attention? this is my kind of flower/plant!

[tootles off to b&q}

At 3:01 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

canute: yes, and the flowers are also edible. I have used them to decorate desserts in my more pretentious culinary moments.

Ms Chick: as I said, they may fall victim to black spot, caterpillars, etc, but you won't have any trouble actually growing them.


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