Posts Tagged Nasturtium ‘Spitfire’
If you have not had an opportunity to enjoy the delightful rose-like fragrance of nasturtium flowers, I encourage you to do so as soon as possible. They smell just like old-fashioned roses to my nose — without all the fuss of pruning, thorns, and battling diseases and insects. And the colors are rose-lovely too — as long as you like warmer oranges, reds, and golds.
I continue to adore the two nasturtium varieties I grew from seeds from Renee’s Garden. As I explained in my last entry, this seed company offered me the chance to try out a few seeds as a benefit of my membership in the Garden Writers Association. I will gladly use my own money to grow these nasturtiums again.
The gorgeous, fragrant climbing nasturtium above is Spitfire. I interplanted it with my Fortex pole beans, and they climbed their way to the top of the trellis almost as quickly as the beans. As I had hoped, they offer pops of color to what would otherwise be a monotonous wall of green beans. The nectar that delights my nose with its perfume must also be very tasty, because the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds defend this trellis as enthusiastically as the feeder near my front door. I am routinely scolded for intruding when I harvest beans in the morning.
Spitfire has continued to bloom nonstop despite our record string of 100+-degree days and moderate drought. Of course, they have benefitted from the bit of extra water I’ve been giving the pole beans, since they grow intermingled with them. When temperatures exceeded 100 degrees for two weeks, some of the tender leaves of Spitfire were damaged, but because the vines continue to produce new growth, the setback was temporary.
I am equally enthusiastic about the mounding nasturtium variety I acquired from Renee’s Garden. ‘Cup of Sun’ has produced a gorgeous mix of deeply fragrant flowers in sunny shades of gold tinged with varying amounts of orange, as you can see from the close-up at the top of my last blog entry. Before the heat wave, their mounds of constantly blooming flowers floating above the leaves were quite eye-catching. Because I was unable to spare much well water for them, they suffered during the heat wave and persistent drought, but the recent slight moderation in temperature and the addition of a bit of rain has them rapidly on the mend. Here’s what they looked like in June before the heat heat:
As gourmet salad lovers know, the flowers make beautiful, peppery additions to salads, but I confess we haven’t taken advantage of this fact. They are just too pretty to eat. I direct-sowed the Spitfires, which germinated a day or two behind the beans. I sowed Cup of Sun seeds in my greenhouse and transplanted the happy plants after I got the veggies settled in.
I’ve also enjoyed the two varieties of Cosmos that I tried. A speciality mix of several colors and forms called ‘Dancing Petticoats’ is still producing abundant flowers in shades of magenta, pink, and white. The plants surrounding a shallow tray of water in my garden have been healthier than the ones growing in another bed, because they receive more water. By dead-heading spent blooms, I have been rewarded with a constant parade of new, large, colorful Cosmos beauties. The down side to larger Cosmos for me is always their floppiness. I started with sturdy transplants grown from seed in my greenhouse, but as soon as they settled in their beds, they shot up stems too spindly to support their weight without staking. As they’ve grown, I’ve just let them flop and drape as they please, as you can see here:
The flowers attract a constant parade of bumblebees and solitary bees. When we finally got a prolonged, heavy rain last weekend (hallelujah!), the Cosmos plants became quite bedraggled, as you can see here:
After they dried a bit, the stems were able to lift the flowers off the ground again — mostly. The flowers of this variety look great for several days, which makes them useful for short-term flower arrangements indoors.
I also grew Cosmos ‘Little Ladybirds’ — a mix of warm orange, yellow, and gold flowers growing on sturdy plants that topped out at about 1.5 feet. They are spectacularly floriferous, as you can see here:
As much as I like this variety, I feel obliged to warn you that the flowers are prone to petal shatter — a condition characterized by the rapid dropping of petals not long after the flowers fully open. I haven’t seen quite such a severe case before. The petals of Little Ladybirds start falling less than 6-8 hours after the flowers open. I have ensured a constant parade of color by meticulously dead-heading the spent flowers every single day. Because they are growing in my vegetable garden, I’m there anyway to harvest veggies, and my patch of these flowers is not large. But if you are unwilling to do this, your plants will likely not be as persistently floriferous as mine have been. Even though the plants are much shorter than ‘Dancing Petticoats,’ the rain beat them down severely too, as you can see here:
The Renee’s Garden catalog describes Little Ladybirds flowers as excellent butterfly attractors. This has not been the case for me. However, the bumblebees and solitary bees work these flowers from dawn to dusk.
The last annual I tried from Renee’s Garden was also marketed as a butterfly magnet, and because I’ve grown this variety before, I knew that Monarch butterflies and swallowtails would be frequent visitors. Torch Tithonia, also called Mexican Sunflower, produces large, bushy plants with velvety leaves and large, bright orange flowers that persist for most of a week in my garden, despite the heat and drought. I love them as cut flowers for that reason, although I hate to deprive the butterflies of one of their favorite flowers.
Finally, a quick word about the one perennial variety I tried: Rudbeckia ‘Cappuccino.’ I love Rudbeckias. They persist well in my landscape despite total neglect, they multiply without any help from me, they flourish in hot, dry sunny spots after they are established, pollinators from butterflies to every species of local bee visit them constantly, and goldfinches consider their seeds haute cuisine.
So when I read the description in the Renee’s Garden catalog for Cappuccino, I knew I had to try it. I sowed the seeds early in my greenhouse, where germination was a tad low — maybe 60%. I ended up with about a dozen plants to trial in my garden. I transplanted these later than I would have liked. It took me a while to make room for them, and veggies are always top priority during spring planting season. After that, they were barely watered, never mulched, and subjected to record heat and moderate drought.
Despite all that abuse, one plant managed to produce two flowers. Although these flowers were not perfect (they were chewed on by something), I’ve seen enough to persuade me that these will be lovely additions in future growing seasons. I expect them to be as persistent as other Rudbeckias I grow, so I’m looking forward to the rich, warm shades of their flowers contrasting with the standard solid golds of my current forms. Here are the two flowers that showed me the potential of this variety:
As you can see from the photo, the bees have already approved this new addition to my garden.
Of the varieties I’ve described in this entry, I will definitely grow the nasturtiums, tithonia, and rudbeckia in future gardens. I will always grow a cosmos variety or two, because I love the forms and colors of these flowers. But I may try different varieties in the hopes of finding one with stronger stems and shatter-resistant petals.
I also acquired Moonflower seeds from Renee’s Garden. When this annual vine begins blooming, I’ll show you why I always enjoy this old-timey flower in my garden.
Oh sure, the garden is thriving right this second. But I see Big Trouble heading this way like a runaway freight train. I’m talking about the 100+ degree heat wave promised for my area in two short days. Right now, the weather seers are calling for at least four days in a row with highs over the 100-degree mark, and five days in a row could easily happen.
I wouldn’t be so worried, if I had gotten the rainfall that so many folks in my region have been blessed with lately. But I didn’t; not even close. Take last night, for instance. A cold front uncharacteristically strong for this time of year blasted through, bringing a line of thunderstorms to just about every yard but mine. I’m really trying not to take the rain snubs personally, but it’s getting harder and harder.
Absolutely no rain is in the forecast during the heat wave. Only the slightest of chances are hinted at for a WEEK FROM NOW! That means my already-too-dry soil is going to be baked by a merciless summer sun without any respite except what I can provide with my hose.
I water my vegetable garden from a shallow well that draws from a perched water table overlaying my floodplain. It is not doing well; neither is the adjacent creek. Neither are the oak trees nearby; they are dropping young acorns by the hundreds in an attempt to reduce their water consumption. I am not sure how much longer I’ll be able to water my vegetables.
Trees that produce fruit early in the season have been more successful than the oaks. For example, my Florida Anise-trees bloomed prolifically this year, and their fruit set has never been so significant. When the seeds inside the fruits ripen, I’m going to carry them down to the floodplain and spread them around to see if new trees will appear next year.
I spent an hour in the uncharacteristically cool morning air thoroughly watering all the veggies. I’m hoping the good dose of water while it’s cool will allow the roots to maximize their use of the water, rather than lose it all to evaporation. I’m hoping this will fortify the plants against the imminent heat wave. I’ll water again in two days, next time at dawn so I don’t melt — if the well holds out.
Every summer now I go through this agony, wondering how long the well will hold out. Will there be enough so that the tomatoes — just beginning to ripen in numbers — can be harvested? Will the peppers have time to ripen? How long will the beans keep producing? When will the bugs overpower heat-weakened squash plants?
My yard has been in a drought for so many years now that I do not remember the last time my creek ran all summer long, when muddy spots on the floodplain would sink tractor tires during mowing, when summer nights were often accompanied by lightning flashes and pounding rain on the roof.
I know the poor folks in Florida are drowning in Tropical Storm Debby’s rains right now. How wonderful it would be if I could wish those clouds here. Five inches? No problem; that’s what floodplains are for. Piedmont topography and soils are better able to handle such amounts.
By this time next week, I expect to be hunkered down in a darkened house as I hide from searing sun and dream, dream, dream of rain.
It arrives when Southern Magnolia blossoms perfume heavy, increasingly hot air.
And after the succession of daylily flowers has progressed from early birds like ‘Happy Returns’ to show-offs like ‘Siloam Dan Tau.’
We’ve usually been eating summer squash for several weeks, along with the first few celebrated tomatoes.
Turtle Weather arrived last week — unusually late for the Piedmont region of North Carolina. It’s Turtle Weather when humid air begins to generate random afternoon thunderstorms, fireflies dance nightly in treetops, and the distant “Bob White” calls of quail from nearby fields punctuate sweltering high-noon sunshine.
That’s when I see them: Eastern Box Turtles in the middle of roads — little country roads and even four-laned roads. Hormonal urges to mate make them recklessly trudge into traffic.
Turtle Weather is really reptile weather. When I see the intrepid Eastern Box Turtles lumbering in search of love, I also begin to see Black Rat Snakes everywhere. I often see them flattened on roads; too many ignorant drivers go out of their way to kill snakes.
But I saw a healthy live one yesterday. It wiggled out onto the road just as I approached in my car. I slowed, and it wisely chose to reverse course, returning to the safety of vegetation growing along the shoulder.
Most startling this week, I came face-to-face with a smaller Black Rat Snake (maybe 2 feet long) at my front door. It was hunting mice that lurk around the built-in bench by the entry just as I opened that door. After two or three seconds of eyeball-to-eyeball frozen staring, we both fled in opposite directions.
Turtle Weather usually lasts a few weeks past the Summer Solstice, which this year arrives next Wednesday. After that, summer heat usually bakes the ground so hot that reptiles only emerge at dusk and dawn, when I usually remain indoors due to the voracious hordes of mosquitoes that own the air during those times.
When Turtle Weather arrives, I know I’ll be spending daily hours in the vegetable garden harvesting the fruits of my labor. Today, I harvested the first beans — enough for a celebratory feast tonight.
The Jade Bush Beans will also be contributing to this evening’s first-harvest bean feast. Here’s the modest row of Jades:
Only the large plant in the foreground had produced harvestable-sized beans, but the others are full of smaller fruits.
Turtle Weather means the wild blackberry thickets will soon be filled with raucous birds feeding on ripened fruits. Cicada thrumming should start up any minute. Weekends are filled with the scents of freshly mown lawns and meat grilling in backyards.
Turtle Weather takes me back to childhood treks through Piedmont woods, neighborhood kickball games on the dead-end street in front of my house, blackberry-picking expeditions from which I returned so covered in red juice and bloody thorn scratches that one could not be distinguished from the other until after a good washing.
Turtle Weather is finite and therefore precious. Reptiles know they must brave busy roads before the time is past. Children know they must play until full dark descends, so as not to waste a single night of no-school-tomorrow freedom. Gardeners know harvests don’t last forever. Fresh fruits must be celebrated, savored, and the excess stored for dark winter feasts.
Turtle Weather is the best Summer brings us. I encourage you to grab it while you can.