Nasturtiums always remind me of Mr. Bates. I try to plant some in his memory every year because, the older I get, the more I admire him. This year, my nasturtium seeds, which I saved from last year, were nowhere to be found. However, I discovered a 'volunteer' growing in a shady spot near St Francis. It had apparently survived the mild winter to sprout in the spring. Thank goodness, I have at least one of these interesting plants!
Mr. Bates lived down the street from us when we lived in New England . I was twenty-something and Mr. Bates ,who was the epitome of an old-fashioned Yankee, was in his late eighties. He was about six feet four and could be seen outside every day of the year, doing some kind of yard work or upkeep on the little house he shared with his equally elderly wife.
I remember being impressed with how Mr. Bates went about the business of planting, weeding, mowing, raking, painting, tinkering and puttering, seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was near ninety. In the fall when the leaves began to tumble down, he would stand outside, rake in hand, waiting expectantly, practically catching them as they landed on his lawn!
Every year, he planted nasturtiums along a low retaining wall that bordered his property on two sides. It was about 250 feet of ledge! But we could always depend on the raucous orange flowers to bloom along his section of the country road called Meadow Lane.
Mr. Bates cared for his bed-ridden wife all the years we lived on that street. He was friendly, willing to share a clump of brown-eyed Susans with a very young and inexperienced gardener. I never heard him complain and his motto seemed to be "just keep on, keeping on."
My daughter said it best when she repeated a line from a school play she was in about the early settlers, "We are Pilgrims, we do what we have to do." That was Mr. Bates.
Nasturtiums are an annual in my part of the world but I've seen them growing wild (and huge) in California where they are considered a weed. The leaves are edible and add an interesting bite to a summer salad. The flowers, which taste milder than the leaves, are lovely when used as a garnish for the salad. One year, I added nasturtium flowers and leaves to one of my herbal vinegars. The vinegar turned a lovely shade of orange and took on a lively peppery flavor.
Take Away - Bright orange Nasturtiums remind me of an old New England neighbor.