Nasturtiums are one of my favourite plants. The flowers tend to peek from behind the luxuriant crisp foliage as if rather shy.
Carl Linnaeus, the 18th-century botanist responsible for binomial nomenclature saw, in the round leaves and red flowers, the shields and bloody helmets that the Romans were wont to put up as a trophy (‘tropaeum’) after a battle, hence the generic name he gave nasturtiums: Tropaeolum. These, the most common garden variety are Tropaeolum majus.
Nasturtiums are great plants to use in permaculture. They attract Large and Small White butterflies (commonly called Cabbage Whites) so they are useful to plant with brassicas in particular. Any vegetable bed will benefit from planting nasturtiums. The leaves are deliciously hot and mustardy in sandwiches, and the flowers nice in salads. The ‘tail’ of the flower is sweet with honey, and the seeds can be pickled in vinegar and used like capers. They are a South American plant originating in the Andes – an immigrant like so many of the plants we consider to be ‘British’.
As usual in my painting, I avoid realistic treatment and aim for an impression. While I painted the leaves more or less realistically, I left the flowers to be more suggestive. Raindrops are a bit kitsch, but really I can’t think of nasturtiums without thinking of them! This is a painting that would look splendid seen across a large room.