Tuesday, 18 October 2011

ABC Wednesday N is for . . .

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.

Click here for more Ns.


  1. A beautiful tour round the garden. Lovely.

  2. @Anthony - thank you kindly, Anthony:-)

  3. pretty and informative - as usual!

    ROG, ABC Wednesday team

  4. Wow you did already your N post ! Don't tell me that these flowers are still blooming, although I still have some like the Geraniums which are as fresh as in spring.
    My cats are not keen on catmint (or catnip) I bought once a little bag and thought they all would get crazy but not at all, the just ignored it !
    Your photos are beautiful.

    I have been to the Exhibition of Tutankhamon's tomb as replica if you want to see it it's here If it comes to England you have to see it absolutely ! It's just amazing and marvelous !

  5. VERY cool post!!!!! Loved every tantalizing, tasty bit of it.

  6. Nasturtiums and newts. Nothing nicer.

  7. Your posts are so very interesting and educative!! Your photos are very clear too!! It is a delight to be here!!

  8. I love coming here and learning new things. You put so much research into these posts. Thank you!

  9. Such a variety of N's in your garden. Lovely. Our Nepeta is very popular with one of the cats who will roll around in it in ecstasy, hugging the stems until they break. Needless to say Nepeta has a hard time in our garden. Interesting to read about the rat deterring quality. Worth a try perhaps.

  10. Love the garden tour! So many interesting things beginning with N. You certainly looked long and hard for this week's entry.

  11. Wow, that's a great collection of Ns. The Nigella is one of my favourite flowers. It's called Maiden in the Green in German, Jungfer im Grünen - I love that name.
    I grow nasturtiums every year - my bearded dragon, my mice and myself eat the flowers and my poison dart frogs enjoy the aphids

  12. Oh, lovely stuff, Janice.
    I'm glad you mentioned the clay soil and the evening-scented stock. My husband always says that's the flower he likes best, but I can't grow it because our soil contains so much clay it is used to make bricks and pottery. Now I know.
    The nasturtium-butter guy on the video was quite fun and funny. I enjoyed it.
    Nuthatches are so cute, and hazelnuts are so delicious, your blog post has me drooling in a number of different ways!

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie’s Guide to Adventurous Travel

  13. Hi Janice .. I love these ABC stories and accompanying photos of your garden flora and fauna .. fun - thank you.

    Cheers Hilary

  14. I really love nasturtiums and for some unknown reason did not plant any this year. Shame on me. Nigella sprouts on it's own so I can count on it every year. Your European nuthatch looks very much like the nuthatches here. I love them!

  15. A wonderful variety of Ns - I love both nasturtiums and Nigella, and the nasturtium butter sounds like a keeper.

  16. what do you do with the aphids? a spread of vinegar?

  17. when I have a bad cold, and am really desperate, I take some leaves, and pound them up and take them. It clears the nose.

  18. The flowers are lovely, and newts were interesting also.

  19. Well that was most interesting. I sure don't have any of those recipes in my recipe box... Maybe I better add a few.

  20. I love Nasturtiums in salad. Yours are spectacular.

    I also love the Nemesis. I can't grow them where I am, but we used to have fields of them where we used to live.

    Love the toad too.

  21. I enjoyed this so much! Many of the plants you mentioned won't grow well here because our summers are too hot. So I enjoyed your beautiful pictures all the more. Thank you for sharing them!

  22. Nasturtiums (I like to call them nasty turtiums!) are my absolute favorite flower of all time. But for some reason I tend to forget about them until I'm reminded and then I get all nostalgic and remember how many years I've absolutely loved them and then how many years I've forgotten to plant them in time. I've actually had them in salads before. Very peppery. But that blue flower is stunning. It could easily become my next favorite flower. I've never seen one just quite like it so I'm thinking it probably doesn't thrive in the warm climates where I've always lived.

  23. I love wandering through your garden, letter by letter.

    Isabel x

  24. Who knew the letter N was so well represented in the garden. I like nasturtiums because they seem to draw the aphids away from my roses and they require little care.

    The little nuthatch is so cute. I do wish we had them in this area.

  25. Oh my! Beautiful flowers. We have some nasturtiums that have crawled under the fence from the neighbor and now fill in blank spots in our yard. They don't die off in our climate unless we have the occasional frost.

  26. I racked my brain to come up with one N, and you've given us so many! My nasturtiums attracted white fly which infected all the nearby plants. Never tried nasturtium again.

  27. Love the nasturtiums, the colours are so cheerful - I didn't know they were a member of the cabbage family.

  28. I didn't know that about aphids and nasturtiums. And thanks for giving the nuthatch a mention.

  29. @Kay - what a shame! There are other strongly-scented flowers that may grow in your climate and soil.
    @Hilary - thank you, Hilary.
    @EGWow - I love nuthatches, too - always pleased to see them.
    @Hildred and Charles - I thought the nasturtium butter looked good, too:-)
    @Ann - I leave them for the birds and ladybirds. The cold remedy sounds good.
    @Gigi Ann - thank you:-)
    @Wanda - me too!
    @Anne - fields of nemesia - heaven:-)
    @Tammy - I'm glad you enjoyed them. One of the joys of blogging is seeing the beauties of other people's worlds.
    @Kathy - nasturtiums are so easy on the eye - and in the salad;-)
    @Isabel - thank you:-)
    @SquirrelQueen - pleased to hear the nasturtiums are working for you:-)
    @ChrisJ - they are opportunistic flowers. How lovely to have them all year round.
    @Oakland Daily - it's funny how nasturtiums work for some and not others. Perhaps it's something to do with the climate?
    @Sue - they don't look much like cabbages, do they?
    @Dave - I love nuthatches and am always delighted to see them.

  30. I don't know how this happened!! Somehow the following comments didn't show up until after the preceding ones and then they appeared before them . . . strange!
    @Roger - thank you, Roger:-)
    @Gattina - I look forward to that exhibition!
    @Meryl - thank you so much, Meryl. Glad you enjoyed it:-)
    @Joshua - yes, I like them:-)
    @Nanka - that's very kind of you to say so.
    @VioletSky - thank you - once a teacher, always . . .
    @Carolina - the bunches might be helpful around the stables. I know rats like horses - or at least, where they sleep.
    @Lisa - thank you, Lisa.
    @Jedediah - the German name is very pretty. Nasturtiums certainly earn their place in your garden!

  31. That was quite an education in nature. Never eaten a nasturtium, but I've had some food that was pretty nasty.

    Tossing It Out
    Please see my guest post at:
    So You Want to be a Writer?

  32. @Arlee - nasturtiums are peppery, Lee:-)

  33. Oh, this is so beautiful... I love it!

  34. StuNNing captures!

    Nostalgic, is one of my ABC entries. Come by any time you get a chance. Have a great day!

  35. @Laurie, chubskulit - thank you:-)

  36. i really loved the tikki tour of your garden world

  37. I like that you've used so many natural elements in your post. I'd never thought of the comparison of a nuthatch looking like a small woodpecker - I like that! We see lots of white and red-breasted nuthatches here.

  38. Excellent post and superb header! Love nasturtiums. Remembering the first large group of them I planted outside the floor to ceiling bedroom window. A new pup came to live and I tried to encourage her to sleep outside without me. The first night she did so, I awakened to a neat heap of nasturtium blossoms. She'd beheaded each of them with such delicacy and stacked them. I'll never forget her. And those nasturtiums!

  39. @Jo - many thanks - glad you enjoyed it.
    @A Scattering - I wish we had more than one type of nuthatch. They're such charming little birds.
    @ - Tumblewords - LOL!!

  40. I didn't know nasturiums were brassica. I bought a friend a bunch of flowers for her birthday today and they included, well, cabbages. I wish i'd taken a photo of them.

    We have nuthatches on our feeders. It's clever the way they eat upside down!

  41. Lovely set of photographs! I enjoyed your captions also.


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