Monday 17 April 2023

A to Z challenge 2023 – N is for . . .


A to Z challenge 2023 – N is for . . .

My theme for this challenge is Nature in all much of her wonderful diversity. My posts will reflect the fact that I am resident in the south of England.

All photographs in this post are the property of the writer.

Nasturtium (Tropaeolum)

Nasturtiums are easily grown annual flowers in a range of vibrant colours including yellow, crimson and orange as well as various mixtures of these in one bloom. Some are shrubby and others climb or trail and all will grow happily in containers. They can be used as ground cover, though they wander far and wide and can become rather untidy. The leaves may be one colour, or variegated in delightfully mottled patterns.

All parts of the plant are edible and they make a colourful addition to salads and cakes, along with marigolds and pansies. The seeds can be pickled and are known as ‘poor man’s capers’. They are quite peppery!

With visiting bee

They are often grown as companion or sacrificial plants in the vegetable bed, attracting caterpillars and blackfly. If covered in blackfly they will not be suitable for human consumption!

They must have sun for at least half the day and do not grow well in shade. They flower for several months, between the last and first frosts and grow best in poor, well-drained soil. They don’t require feeding unless you want a crop of healthy leaves and very few flowers.

I’m not quite sure how poor soil will be good for both nasturtiums and vegetables!


Nigella damascena

Nigella damascene is another pretty annual that is easy to grow. It is a member of the buttercup family and is commonly known as love-in-a-mist or Jack in the green. It has attractive feathery leaves and single or double blooms of pink, blue, violet or white which are followed by distinctive globular seed heads. The pods are often used in flower displays but if left on the plant, will disperse seeds freely.

It prefers to grow in sheltered full sun on well-drained soil and gives a profusion of flowers from July to September. It dislikes heavy, boggy soil and will not flower well in shade.  

The ‘damascena’ in the flower’s name refers to the city of Damascus, where it is said that it was found during the Crusades in 1570 by a French knight called Robert de Brie (was he a big cheese?)

When he returned to his castle in Champagne (brie is the best cheese to accompany dry champagne!) de Brie planted the first ever nigella in France. 

Some 400 years earlier, another crusader, Frederick Barbarossa, Emperor Frederick I, was reputedly seduced by a green-haired water sprite and, pursuing her, drowned. The lady-in-the-shade, another name for nigella damascena, sprang up alongside the stream as a perpetual (or annual, at least) reminder of the fairy’s charms, the feathery leaves a token of her tresses.

Frederic I did indeed drown while crossing the River Saleph, but no accounts of his death mention a naiad!


Nuthatch (Sitta Europaea)

The nuthatch is a native British bird, common throughout England, Wales and southern Scotland. They inhabit broad-leaved woodland and do not stray far from where they hatched. They visit gardens close to suitable breeding grounds in deciduous or mixed woodland, particularly in November, when they are busy searching for food and also caching it in the shorter daylight hours.

Nuthatches are omnivorous, their diet including invertebrates, nuts and seeds. If you are lucky enough to have them visiting your garden, they can often be seen scuttling up and down tree trunks and along branches searching for insects hiding under the bark.

The name nuthatch comes from Middle English ‘nuthak’, meaning nut hacker. This refers to their habit of wedging nuts into crevices and smashing them open with their strong beaks.



  1. I do love nasturtiums! I've got a few over at my blog, too! =)

  2. Easy to grow plants like Nigella damascene must be popular with garden lovers, I guess.

    1. They are popular - easy to grow and generous.

  3. The nuthatch is a very interesting bird with the nut cracking tradition passed down the generations.

  4. Look at the perfection of the petal layout in the Nigella damascena. The design is perfect.

  5. I love Nigella and planted it in several gardens I've lived in, but not here, there just isn't room for it.

  6. I'm sure you have other beautiful flowers to compensate.

  7. So interesting, thank you, and photos are gorgeous. xx

  8. I love both nasturtium and nigella and have grown both in the past. I learnt my lesson about letting nasturtium run to seed though, they popped up everywhere the following year. We sometimes see nuthatches in the woods where we walk Archie, beautiful little birds.

  9. I'm always pleased to see nuthatches in the garden - such busy little birds.

  10. The nuthatches are so pretty. What a shame these birds don't venture as far north as Aberdeen.
    Cheers, Gail.

  11. Such pretty flowers and what cute birdies! Thanks for visiting me in the A to Z. I'll have to check out the rest of your alpha.
    Janet’s Smiles

  12. Two of my favourite flowers in one post, and a nuthatch too! I don't think I've ever seen one of those around here. xxx

  13. That's a nice looking nuthatch -- and the violet flowers here are my favorites.

  14. Such a beautiful post; nasturtiums and nigellas are among my favorite flowers. I wish we had nuthatches on the coast of Northern California; what a fine little bird.

  15. Ahhh, those pretty purple flowers.

  16. Such a lovely colour in the spring.

  17. I liked the folklore of the flowers added to the post :-) I have nasturtiums in my garden -- growing between the chickens and the vegetable garden. We call this plant "kappertjies". The chickens probably enjoy them more than we do :-)

    Ronel visiting for N:
    My Languishing TBR: N
    Nymphs of All Kinds

  18. Lucky chickens! Folklore is such an important part of our heritage


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