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Spicy sprawling nasturtiums

Flower snatchers

Story by

STEVE PAYNE contemplates his profusely performing nasturtiums that have forgotten it is mid-winter.

I have an east-facing spot on our second storey front veranda that catches the winter sun in the morning. I don’t sit on a chair, just a cushion up against the wall, a cuppa by my side and sometimes my daughter Billie and dog Marli (a mini fox terrier schnauzer cross who doesn’t take up much space). From here, quietly soaking up the rays and reading the paper we can watch the passing village traffic. Mostly they don’t know we are there.

The young kids heading up early to the local primary school often stop in our fenceless front yard and snap off a few nasturtium flowers to snack on or perhaps add to their lunches (nasturtium flowers and leaves being edible). At first I was concerned that they would deplete the supply but the flowers keep on coming.

In fact, nasturtiums are supposed to be a fast growing annual but because they self-seed so well, they appear to keep growing and spreading wider and wider. To be honest, if I think back, they did die off late in our hot summer having dragged their weary stems through a very warm spring. Then, before I knew it, they had come back to life in autumn.

In cooler climes they flower in summer and autumn, but here in the subtropics, in mid-winter they are flourishing, with lots of their distinctive bright flowers. And this is not because of a mild winter – although our days have been warm at around 20°C for the last month, our nights have been very chilly – hovering just above zero – making it one of the coldest winters for some years. We have just managed to escape frost though, which has hit at the bottom of our hilly village, but not midway up where our garden is nestled. The flowers are filling out an otherwise desultory garden bed as a gorgeous groundcover beneath tall eucalypts that one would think were sucking the life out of the ground. But no, the nasturtiums are producing their wonderfully spicy leaves and flowers in fairly scrappy soil with little watering from me. I just hope they last til they are needed to put some zing and colour into our spring and summer salads.