Nasturtiums – Quick Color for the Spring Garden
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Nasturtiums originated in the high Andes mountains of Peru and are, therefore, an important native flower of the western hemisphere. They need plenty of light to produce good flowers in shades of yellow, orange, red and mahogany. Double flower cultivars are available.
Nasturtiums grow rapidly and come into bloom in about six or eight weeks from seed, quicker than most other annual flowers. Plant them after the danger of frost is past. Sow nasturtium seeds in the soil of below-average fertility to encourage slow growth and abundant flowering. Rich soils will produce lush green plants that are too busy growing to produce flowers. These excellent plants are almost pest-free except for an occasional infestation of aphids.
A unique feature of nasturtiums is that parts of this ornamental plant are edible. The young flower buds and unripe seeds have a pleasantly pungent flavor. Young leaves have a peppery flavor and may be used in sandwiches and salads. The flowers may be used as an edible garnish.
The low bushy type nasturtiums grow to a height of one or two feet. They are fine as edging plants or massed in the flower border. The flowers are produced freely and are useful in small and medium-sized arrangements.
The climbing type nasturtium rapidly grows to a height of six to eight feet, and will quickly cover a fence or lattice. This vine climbs by twining around its support; therefore, you will need to provide string, wire, or a trellis for climbing nasturtiums. Climbing types may also be used to hang down from a window box or trail along a bank or stone retaining wall. Vining varieties prefer shade from the sun during the hottest part of the day.
These plants will fade when the full-on heat of summer arrives, but you can enjoy the color they bring to the garden for a month or two, making them worth the effort.