Sunday, July 14, 2013

Nasturtiums on the march

Don't be fooled by those seed packets of compact growing Nasturtiums or the variegated variety 'Alaska' with its pretty marbled leaves, after a couple of years of self seeding they revert to the wild type and in mild climates they spend winter sending off long runners topped with large round leaves to cover as much ground as possible before the return of hot days which shrivels their leaves. By then, when those sweetly scented flowers have appeared, all is forgiven and you hardly notice that beneath the leaves there are hundreds of their large crinkly seeds littering the ground. They are usually light enough to float and in a summer downpour they may end up a long way from where they were originally planted. Clever evolution at work to ensure survival of a species.
Despite this 'weed potential' warning, the humble Nasturtium is much revered in French gardens, and in art for that matter, where it is know as Capucine.  In Monet's garden at Giverny a central walkway is roped off to allow them to spread across the path from both sides. In Marcel Proust's A la recherche.....a gardener is described pruning the leaves from ones allowed to grow up a trellis to window height against a wall. 'Fauve' artist Henri Matisse painted pagan rhythmical figures swirling around a central vase of nasturtiums in Capucines a la Danse .
Capucines a la Danse 1912
Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
'Danse' version 1,left, Metropolitan Museum of Art New York and 'Danse' 2 from the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art, Moscow.
 (As an aside about the Pushkin Museum, the recent sacking of the Director, Irina Alexsandrovana Antonova, at the age of 91, gives us all inspiration for a long and fruitful career in a chosen profession whatever the outcome.)

Weed or groundcover worthy of a place in the garden?

'Boulevard des Capucines'
Nasturtium bright colours in this French poster


  1. Thanks for a very interesting post. I'm yet to grow nasturtiums successfully...very spindly with no flowers whatsoever. I do use the leaves in salads though, so not an entire loss.

  2. You could always gather the seeds Ian and pickle them. Supposed to be a very acceptable replacement for capers. I just love the plant though, just wish it would grow wild in my garden. It's one "weed" I'd happily cultivate. My sister's plants last year had leaves as big as dinner plates.