By James Wall
Yes the nasturtium is a bit of a rambler, or a roamer. I like to think of it as a plant that likes a bit of a wander. It is a fast growing annual plant that comes from Peru and Ecuador in South America. It has large round leaves and red to orange or shades of yellow trumpet like flowers. It doesn’t need much fertiliser and in fact too much manure and it will go all leafy and not flower much at all. It can be grown all year, but will flower mainly in Spring to Autumn.
It would make a good plant for a kinder garden, as the large seeds are easy to direct sow into the garden and will germinate in just a couple of weeks. The growth of the seedling is then quite rapid, something somewhat impatient children will appreciate.
Seedlings can also be planted, with the two main varieties available being ‘Jewel Mix’ which is more sprawly, and ‘Alaska Mix’ which is more compact and has variegated leaves. In seed packs there are more unusual varieties which include single colours and double flowers.
A big claim to fame for this plant is that it has edible flowers which are used to colour up salads. The seeds and leaves are also edible and even though I can’t say I have cooked with them yet, many chefs around the world have incorporated them into foods such as pesto, where they apparently add a peppery taste. Funny, watercress have round leaves and they’re a little peppery too.
One of the traits of this plant is that it easily self seeds, which means it can take control of parts of your garden, competing staunchly against other plants, so much so it is considered to be an environmental weed in some regions. That makes it a great city plant, but maybe it shouldn’t be grown in a country garden. It can be controlled by pulling out young seedlings, or digging deeper to remove larger ones. It still may come up a couple more times, but persistently removing it will eventually stop it.
Fond memories for me, are balls of water that form on the leaves. Yes, it is probably the leaf of this plant that I like more than the flower. They are an interesting shape and a rather appealing mat green.
Some may find the nasturtium creepy, but for me, it is the true urban rambler.
Botanical name: Tropaeolum majus