The hanging nasturtiums are now on exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardner. If you haven't made it to see these enchanting cascading orange blossoms, then waste no time and get your butt over there! The installation is as brief as it is stunning.
The hanging of nasturtiums is a continuation of an annual tradition begun by Isabella Stewart Gardener. Historically, she hung the plants in celebration of the museum's opening on the week preceding Easter. While patrons can now visit the galleries year round, the arrival of the orange blossoms remains a raucous ushering-in of the beginning of spring.
Aside from being beautiful, nasturtiums and their foliage are also edible! A colorful addition to any salad, the flowers surprise the palate with their peppery taste. They are also high in the vitamins A, C, and D, making them popular plate-dressers for home gardeners and chefs alike. If you happen to make the trip to see the display, be sure to stop by the museum's Café G, which always develops special menu items incorporating the vibrant florets.
The plants are cultivated from seeds sown at the end of summer. Throughout the winter, they are nurtured vigilantly in the Gardner greenhouse to coax the vines reaching an impressive 25 feet in length.
Fun Facts About NASTURTIUMS
• The word nasturtium is derived from two Latin words, nasus, meaning 'nose' and tortus, meaning 'twisted or tortured'. Now, we think this seems a bit harsh, but presumably the name refers to the flower's surprising peppery smell (and taste!).
• On the other hand, the genus name, Tropaeolum, comes from the Greek word tropaion meaning "trophy," said to be derived from some nasturtium's shield-shaped leaves and helmet-shaped florets.
• Nasturtiums grown in gardens today descend primarily from two species native to Peru. These are Tropaeolum minus (lightly scented orange-yellow flowers with dark red spots on the petals) and Tropaeolum majus (dark orange flowers and more rounded leaves). The Gardner's nasturtiums are T. majus.
• According to Feng Shui, nasturtiums may be planted to harmonize the energies between buildings and land.
• The flowers are super for beginning gardeners and inhospitable gardens. Easily grown from seed, they do wonderfully in poor soil and will sprout 7-10 days after planting. Plant them in the spring in sandy soil to enjoy their blossoms in the summer. Fertilize scantly, as over-feeding can cause more foliage and fewer flowers. Regular watering and deadheading will encourage more blooms.
• During World War II, the seeds were used as a substitute for pepper!
• Nasturtiums are garden warriors and make amazing companion plants for deterring pests! Plant them to ward away aphids, whiteflies, cucumber beetles and other pests from roses, tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbages and other plants.
Learn More About the Gardner's Nasturtium Display:
For more fascinating info on the Gardner's nasturtiums, visit Boston Magazine to see an amazing step-by-step exposé of the painstaking process for hanging the nasturtiums. WBUR also did a wonderful piece with more personal insights from Stan Kozak, the Gardner's chief horticulturalist. Hop over to the The Patriot Ledger for an inside look at the Gardner's greenhouse in Hingham (complete with gorgeous photographs!).
Edible Flowers: A Global History (2O16) by Constance L. Kirker and Mary Newman
Mythical Flower Stories (2005) by Marylin Reed
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