Friday, August 14, 2009


A while ago, Aisling recommended a 1925 book to me called The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton-Porter. I read it and loved it. In fact, it is probably one of my top ten favorite books. This is what I wrote in my journal six years ago:

A man has been in a California veterans hospital for a year with shrapnel wounds in his chest. He overhears the administration people say that he will be transferred to another hospital because he will "probably" get TB. The man knows that this is the place people go to die. He simply walks away. He meets kind people. He is asked by a beekeeper to live in his house and take care of his bees and gardens while he is in the hospital. The writing is very poetical and philosophical. Simplistic, yet complex in its thoughts and observations. A truly beautiful book - hopeful, optimistic, spiritual. Belief in the goodness of nature and the humanity of people. The author wrote: "To my way of thinking and working, the greatest service a piece of fiction can do any reader is to leave him with a higher ideal of life than he had when he began. If in one small degree it shows him where he can be a gentler, saner, cleaner, kindlier man, it is a wonder working book." Well, she certainly accomplished this in The Keeper Of The Bees.

Later I came across a blog called GPS Outdoors about the restoration of the woods and gardens of Porter's home in Indiana. I lost track of it for a while, but it is now back on the bloglist under Across the US.

One entry had a photo of one of the most beautiful nasturtiums I had ever seen. I asked what it was, and to my great surprise, it was part of the common 'jewel mix.'

I think the little red markings in the middle look like leaves in the fall

I've grown them for two years now, and I think they mirror the daylilies a bit - much smaller versions of those oranges, yellows, reds, and pinks. They are a burst of color in the vegetable garden. Some people eat them in salads. Warning: it doesn't take many seeds to make a huge display. I've had to cut back the leaves to let the flowers show through. I've been picking them all summer and putting just the tops in a little glass plate.


  1. I like her books, more for how she describe the nature than the plots. I haven't read that book though. But I was appaled when I read "Her Father's Daughter" (Gutenberg has it) as it is so racist. Probably characteristic of the period, but still terrible.
    Her daughter has written a biography that isn't very good, but parts of it is interesting.

  2. Thank you for sharing. These are beautiful. I must have for my new garden. Your writing continues to bless me!!!

  3. They are good to eat too, but mine always get loads of blackfly, they seem to love them. Lovely photographs of them.


  4. These are beautiful. I am going to try and see if I can find them at our local plant shop. They would make for a great and colorful display in the front of my yard!

  5. Your nasturtiums look beautiful. I love them in my salad! Nice peppery flavor.

  6. This is such a coincidence...when I was in Montreal earlier this week, Amy of the Cassandra Pages blog and I were talking about Gene Stratton Porter novels--Girl of the Limberlost and Freckles. And I said that my favourite of them all was Keeper of the Bees, and that my family were bee-keepers. My copy is still at my parents house, but I definitely need to find one somewhere and re-read it. It's been such a long time....

  7. Those nasturtiums look so pretty. I've never grown them before. I wonder if they'll grow in Hawaii.

  8. My grandfather was a market gardener and could grow anything. I have NOT inherited the gene. I thought nasturtiums were supposed to grow anywhere, but not in my patch of earth. If Grandad was alive and could see my garden he would kill me!

  9. Your nasturtiums are wonderful, Nan - they are a plant I love to grow, but once the leaves are out the large white caterpillars appear in plague numbers and have to be picked off, or *everything* gets eaten. We always call them "mastershalums", which is what Piglet told Pooh he was planting.

  10. Nan,

    Isn't it interesting the way moments in life are connected together. I loved reading this post and seeing that a book recommendation I made to you years ago has led (however indirectly) to continued joy in the beauty of your bountiful nasturtiums today. :)

    I just recommended The Keeper of the Bees to a sweet lady who reads my blog a couple of weeks ago! It is still one of my very favorite books too.

  11. Thanks for the book tip! Your flowers are beautiful! I am partial to flowers that are not a solid color. There are such beautiful contrasts in nature!

  12. Hi Nan!
    Aisling linked me to your blog so I could read about The Keeper of the Bees. Beautiful! I'm intrigued and I am going to try to find it at the library this morning. I love nasturtiums, too. In Washington (where I grew up) they appeared all fresh and fragrant and went crazy, but here in Colorado, they try, they really do, but I get a small little group of strugglers. I appreciate their efforts and their blooms just the same.

  13. Margaretha, I haven't read anything else, though I'm aware of Girl of the Limberlost -not a story I was interested in reading.

    One Woman's Journey, thank you so much. The thing I didn't mention is that nasturtiums are so easy to grow. Because they get so big, the weeds never have a chance.

    Carole, I tried the leaves and they were sort of peppery tasting. I think it's really the flowers one is supposed to eat though. :<)

    Linda, they make a great display and are easy to grow.

    Sherri, I had just written the word 'peppery' to Carole above, when I read your comment.

    Margaret, I am utterly amazed. This isn't a title that comes up in the usual conversation.

    Kay, I would think so. And the colors sure would fit right in - very tropical looking.

    Table Talk, sometimes it really is the soil not the planter!

    Geranium Cat, they sound awful - along with the blackfly Carole mentioned. Yuck. Absolutely nothing attacks them here.. We use Pooh words too, like 'smackeral' :<)

    Aisling, I found it truly wonder-ful (full of wonder).

    Mare, there really are, and I love the way they all grow side by side. No color clashes in flowers. I love them all.

    Pom Pom, thanks for coming by. I think you'll enjoy the book. Is it because Colorado is drier? (asks she who doesn't know much about state climates)

  14. I read [many times] "Girl of the Limberlost." I enjoyed the descriptions of nature and looking back, I think the relationships of the books characters were subtly drawn--probably in keeping with the times. I also read "Laddie" and "The Harvester." Porter's writing style reminds me a bit of Lucy Maude Montgomery.
    Nasturtiums were a joy in my New England gardening years. I was able to find several older varieties, including Empress of India, a trailing kind.

  15. Those are beautiful. I love them in the bowl with all of the wonderful colors. I had no idea you could eat them!!!

  16. Ours also attract blackfly and Cabbage wghite caterpillars but what the heck - there's enough for all of us!

  17. I loved this post Nan. I have The Keeper of the Bees on my to read list. When I was a child I was given A Girl of the Limberlost but didn't ever finish reading it. Just didn't appeal. I recently found it in amongst my childhood books my eleven year old granddaughter plays Libraries with and put it aside to read. I think the guilt of not finishing it as a child is still with me fifty years or so later! Your comment on this book makes me feel somewhat better about it.
    I love nasturtiums and have just last week planted some seeds.Yours are beautiful.
    Off the subject, I am presently reading Olive Kitteridge and loving it.



  18. Your flowers are beautiful. I will look for The Keeper of the Bees. It sounds wonderful. Thanks for the review.

  19. I love these beautiful blossoms, especially gathered together in the bowl on your table. Lovely!!

  20. The nasturtiums are beautiful! I never grow those for some reason but am going to have to get some seeds. I always forget about them. "Keeper of the Bees" is one of my favorites as well. My mother collects Gene Stratton Porter's books, and that one is the first one I read and it is just a beautiful book. It enchanted me from the first page.

  21. Morning's Minion, I must look into her other books. And also see if I can find some Empress of India for next year. It would be fun to have two varieties. I could have a whole garden of these beauties!

    They really are so gorgeous, Staci. I have tried all summer to capture them in the bowl, and no photo really can do it.

    Scriptor Senex, yuck!

    Patricia, I don't think you ever have to feel guilty about quitting a book you didn't like. I've quit zillions and am not a bit sorry. If something draws me back to try it again I might, but honestly most of the time I still don't like them. :<) Imagine just planting!! I'm so happy for you that you like OK.

    Joemmama, I'll be interested to hear what you think if you read it and want to stop back and let me know.

    Thanks, Les. I've just loved them. They last quite a while too, but even if they didn't there are so, so many out there to pick!

    Jill, that's exactly like me. I grew them ages ago, and then just forgot about them until I saw the blog I mentioned. They deliver such beauty for such a little investment of money and time. I think it is wonderful your mother collects those books. I'll bet they are beautiful. I mean to read more.

  22. I love Keepers of the Bees. I need to read it again.I collected Gene Stratton Porter books since then ( years ago in early homeschooling) and found Laddie. My 4th oldest brother is Ladd ( hails from Conn) and is alot like the main guy!
    Thanks for this post. I was filled with a sigh!


  23. Bonnie, thanks. I must spend some time looking into her other work.


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