Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are still flowering vibrantly in the garden though not for much longer. As the days grow colder and the nights colder still we shall soon have the first frosts to stop these pretty annuals in their tracks. They have clambered and scrambled and climbed through other plants and opened their colourful blooms to the insect population for several months. Often the undersides of their leaves are populated with aphids which means that the rest of the garden may escape infestation.
Nasturtiums’ needs are minimal – earth and water and sun. If they are looked after too well they will produce huge leaves and fewer flowers. As well as looking cheerful and brightening the sometimes dull, damp days of a British summer, all parts of this member of the cabbage family (Brassicaceae) are edible.
I have only ever used them in salads and pickled the seeds as Poor Man’s Capers but there are some interesting recipes here. The following video clip is interesting, too.
The leaves are as pretty as the flowers and may be plain or variegated.
Nemesia is a fragrant, pretty flower that is usually treated as an annual though sometimes ours have survived for two or three years. They rapidly fill a tub or trough with masses of flowers, the perfume wafting on warm summer air to delight someone walking in the garden or standing at an open door or window. They bloom from June to October.
Nepeta cataria, often called catmint or catnip, is a rather straggly plant with furry leaves and spikes of white and blue-purple flowers. It attracts bees and butterflies as well as cats. Winston, however, is unimpressed by it, whether growing or dried!
Catmint can be used as a herbal medicine to relieve colic in children, as an antipyretic in cough mixtures and to treat haemorrhoids. It is believed to deter rats – it should be tied in bunches and hung in places where they are not wanted. As rats are generally not welcome anywhere I wonder if there is enough catmint in the world to carry out this job!
Preying on sticklebacks!
There are common or smooth newts (Lissotriton vulgaris) in our pond.
We rarely see them but occasionally have watched them stalking small sticklebacks. I have written about them here.
The annual Nigella damascena, often called love-in-a-mist, has been grown since Elizabethan times and is an old cottage garden favourite. It is a member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) The flowers are attractive at all stages. The spherical buds open to delicate flowers commonly in a range of blues, though they may also be white or pink.
After flowering the balloon-like seed heads can be used in dried flower arrangements. Left in situ they will eventually disperse their seeds thus ensuring a pretty show the following year. The ‘mist’ of the common name is created by the delicate greenery surrounding each flower – from a distance the flowers appear to be surrounded by a green haze.
Some gardeners call this flower ‘Devil-in-the-bush’ – and maybe it is a nuisance if it grows where it’s not been invited. Not for me, though – anything that succeeds in growing in our garden is welcome – well, nearly anything.
Night-scented stock (Matthiola longipetala) has not grown well in our garden. I have just discovered that it prefers a light soil and ours is heavy with some clay. It’s a shame because it has a lovely scent, particularly noticeable in the evening.
Nuthatches (Sitta europaea) can often be seen walking headfirst down tree trunks. They look rather like small woodpeckers and are welcome visitors to our garden feeders. They eat a varied diet of insects, seeds and nuts and may live for eleven years – quite a long span for a small bird, about the size of a Great Tit.
Ripening hazel nuts in June
Finally, Nuthatches may care to feed on the Nuts from our corkscrew hazel, though I think the squirrels are probably the prime recipients of this year’s bounteous harvest.
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