P71007You can say what you like about nasturtiums. My landscape designer colleague, Brent Green certainly did when he named them ‘dago pansies’. They are still one of my favorite flowers, and just might be my favorite, even though none are convincingly white. They were my first. I discovered them when I was very young. They were growing near an old English walnut tree in my great grandfather’s garden. He noticed that I liked them, so found some seeds underneath to send home with me.

I did not know what to do with seeds, so I poked holes into the ground and dropped the seeds into the holes just like my great grandfather showed me to do. A few days later, small round leaves appeared where I had put the seeds. The leaves expanded and looked just like those of the nasturtiums in my great grandfather’s garden. Yellow, orange and even a few red flowers were blooming within a month. I was so impressed when the flowers first appeared, but was then briefly saddened when the first flowers to bloom faded.

I say that I was ‘briefly’ saddened because of what happened next. Where the flowers had been, I discovered what appeared to be the same sort of seeds that my great grandfather had given me! I still did not understand how these things worked; but I took the seeds and stuck them into the ground in other areas . . . anywhere I thought nasturtiums would be nice. They grew, bloomed and provided more seeds, which I took and planted elsewhere . . . and everywhere! To this day, my pa considers nasturtiums to be invasive weeds because of how they overwhelmed the garden that he thought was his.

In my kindergarten classroom, we had ‘color boards’ on a wall. Red, yellow and blue were the tree primary colors. Orange, green and purple were the secondary colors. There were also boards for pink, brown, black, white and gray. We could bring small disposable artifacts from home for our teacher to tape to the various boards. The artifacts were mostly bits of fabric, colored paper, pictures from magazines, Legos, buttons, or really anything we could find that could be taped to a wall. Of course, I had to bring yellow, orange and red nasturtium flowers, and a green nasturtium leaf. Our teacher probably did not want to tape them to the wall, but did anyway. They turned brown, but stayed there. I bragged about them for the rest of the school year.

I still grow descendents of those old nasturtiums. I also try new varieties just because I enjoy them so much. I still like the classic ‘Jewels mix’ because they have every color. They are smaller than wild nasturtiums at first, but are more prolific. After a few years, they revert to the common yellow and orange. Renee’s Garden Seeds at https://www.reneesgarden.com/ has some very interesting varieties, including a few old classics. The climbing types do not bloom as much, but are fun anyway. I probably have not tried them all yet, but I would if I could. I have history with dago pansies.

9 thoughts on “Dago Pansies

    1. I am surprised by their popularity in other regions. A neighbor (where I lived in town) told me that they were inappropriate for our neighborhood. (Apparently, it was also inappropriate for me to do my own gardening where neighbors could see me doing so.) I grew them in my downtown planter box where anyone cold see them.


      1. Well, it is how our culture is here now. It is my hometown, but is crowded with a majority of those who came here for the reputation. When I lived in town, my (non-Californian) neighbors wanted me to park in back because they did not want to see my old American cars. Then, the neighbor behind wanted me to park out front because he did not want to see them either (after illegally cutting down trees so that he had a good view of my back yard). I get pulled over so often that I considered keeping a gust book in the glove boxes. I will grow nasturtiums every chance I get though.


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