The Mitchell House nasturtiums I sowed directly in the ground as I always do in late May are now blooming. They are mainly heirloom varieties – so something akin to what Mary Mitchell, Maria Mitchell’s aunt who lived at 1 Vestal Street after Maria’s family did, would have planted around “Neighbor North” – their name for the outhouse.
I love nasturtiums. They were also the favorite flower of a friend and mentor of mine – Edith Folger Andrews. I have written about Edith before. She was for many, many years curator of the Mitchell House – working at Mitchell House even before that. She was also an ornithologist who was instrumental in creating the MMA’s bird collection and driving the ornithology arm of the Natural Science Museum. When she first started at the MMA, the natural Science Department was still located in the Mitchell House and some of the curators and directors she worked for here at MMA were cousins of Maria Mitchell’s. One of the curators, in fact, painted this image of Edith in the sitting room of the Mitchell House in William Mitchell’s arm chair in the late 1940s. It is my favorite image of Edith – and the chartreuse of the hydrangea outside and Edith’s dress, along with the blue of the chair, are so vivid.
I look at nasturtiums a little bit differently now that Edith is gone. They have a tinge of sadness to them for me now. And I know that now, after many months, it’s time for me to make a trip to the cemetery to bring her a posey of nasturtiums.