“A beautiful flower is still beautiful, whether millions see it, or one or two, or none.” ~Frank Kingdon Ward
I am glad I decided to post monthly about favorite flowers I grow from seed given the winter we have had. Typically white? Yes, without a thaw and just about on target for our 12 feet of annual snow most falling in February so far. Atypically frigid so not much time spent outside. Most days have been below 20 degrees, and many more below zero days or nights then we have seen for a long time.
But these cold days have given me lots of time to work on indoor projects left over from last year. We
have gone through every nook and cranny cleaning and clearing out what we no longer, want or use. And come late spring we will have our first (and hopefully only) garage sale. We also gave away loads more than we are selling to our local thrift store.
It has been liberating to clean out so much clutter. And now I have a great spot to do my seed starting with a table and shelves. Just in time as I have started pansies and violas (hybrids of the family Violaceae), and at the end of this week snapdragons or Antirrhinum. I’ll have a post about the pansies and violas in a few weeks to round out this winter’s Flower Tales series.
But for this post, I am turning to a favorite flower that I plant each spring in my veg garden; Tropaeolum majus or garden nasturtium (also known as Indian cress or monks cress). Nasturtiums are in the family Tropaeolaceae (the Nasturtium family).
With this month’s flower tale, I am linking in for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day (GBBD) hosted by Carol@May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of each month. And I am also linking in with Judith@Lavender Cottage who hosts Mosaic Monday.
The name nasturtium comes from the Latin “Nasus Tortus” meaning convulsed or twisted nose, which refers to the spicy flavor of the plant. Nasturtium’s common name comes from the fact that it has a similar taste to watercress (Nasturtium officinale).
Tropaeolum majus is considered an annual. In milder climates Tropaeolum majus can self seed and come back the next year.
Plant nasturtiums in full sun for the best flowering. In the heat of summer they will flower nicely in part shade too as mine do. If they do stop flowering in the hot weather, you can cut them back as they will regrow in the cooler fall.
Nasturtiums do not like rich soils and flower best if the soil is not fertilized too much. I plant mine on the edge of the veg beds so when we fertilize we miss them. They do fine when I mix a bit of compost in the soil before I plant them. And keep them well-watered and free of weeds, and they will flower in about 2 months lasting right up until the first killing frost.
Nasturtiums can have a few pests like slugs and white flies.
I like to grow both the compact and trailing forms of Tropaeolum majus. Compact nasturtiums grow to about 12 inches high, and the trailing will grow up trellises or down a wall.
Folklore and Tales
The nasturtiums we grow today come from 2 native species in Peru. Jesuit missionaries reported that the Incas used nasturtiums in salads and in medicines to treat coughs and colds as well as for minor cuts and scratches.
Nasturtiums became popular when King Louis XIV planted them in the palace flowerbeds.
It is reported that Thomas Jefferson planted them in his vegetable garden at Monticello.
In the 19th century smaller compact types of nasturtiums were bred. The flowers and leaves were used in Victorian bouquets. During this time too, nasturtiums were known to help prevent scurvy, as the leaves are rich in Vitamin C.
Monet was reported to really like nasturtiums and planted them along the path in front of his house in Giverny.
Dried ground nasturtium seeds were used as a substitute for black pepper during WWII as pepper could not be easily imported.
One of the main reasons I grow nasturtiums is to use them in salads or as a garnish. All parts of this plant are edible. It has a wonderful peppery taste that gets stronger if you wait to harvest the flowers when the sun is hotter.
You can also stuff the blossoms with a variety of mixtures including guacamole, cream cheese and egg salad.
Tropaeolum majus is a larval food source for some Lepidoptera species such as the Dot Moth and the Garden Carpet Moth.
Nasturtiums are also used as companion plants. They are said to repel squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and several caterpillars. And they serve as a trap for black fly aphids as I found in my veg garden last year. They also attract beneficial predatory insects.
Language of Flowers
In the language of flowers Nasturtiums stand for Patriotism. It is also known as the flower of heroes signifying conquest and victory in battle.