Nasturtiums, the flowers that follow me everywhere


I measure my life in flowers. Nasturtiums marked my first home, red geraniums my first proper job, scented lily of the valley are for the love of my life.

On the table in front of me is a box of Blue Pepe nasturtium seeds, from Piccolo, a specialist in culinary plants. Also four packets from Plants of Distinction, all nasturtiums: Black Velvet, Bloody Mary, Crimson Emperor, Caribbean Cocktail. There are others downstairs, a multicoloured mix from Franchi, a climber from Higgledy Garden, plus of course some I saved.

I admired their late buds in December, miraculously surviving frost better than others sited just a few feet away (the Tuscan wild calendula are still flowering).

I sow my first nasturtium seeds in February. They have been my constant companion wherever I’ve had a pot, a plot or windowsill. Sometimes it is not so much I adopted them as they adopted me.

I never scatter nasturtiums on salads, though I’ll eat an occasional flower or leaf at the plot like peas, but they say something about me and the gardening I do that I can’t quite articulate.

They are hopeful, haphazard, a bit common (and yes, I am still talking nasturtiums and not me). They don’t need much to grow on, even a wall will do. They have toughness, a touch of character, they will sprawl most anywhere.

It’s my birthday this week (yet another midwinter-born) so I will look back as well as forward. I have never (honestly) needed much to make me happy, but somehow, at sometime, from a small boy, growing a gaudy English cottage flower, watching it climb and spread, seeing it carve out a home, has become part of my life, almost my garden signature. Sometimes even flowers mean more than they first appear to.