Wallflowers and Tulips

The Humble Wallflower and Tulips

wallflowersBoldly coloured, sweet smelling and at home in the poorest conditions… there’s nothing retiring about the humble wallflower.

They are, of course, biennials, which, to the uninitiated have the following timetable. You sow them in May/June, plant them in October and they flower the following spring. Biennials, by definition, establish themselves as plants in their first growing season and flower in the second, producing seed which will start the cycle again. The truth is that wallflowers are really perennial, but it suits gardeners to treat them as biennial to get the best from them, otherwise they tend to become leggy and sprawly, and the florification diminishes.

Plats maybe bought now for planting as bare root bundles which need to be well watered in when planted or as pot grown seedlings

The musty, heavy scent of wallflowers outside the front door is so welcome in spring when the warmth of the sun brings their fragrance out.

Wallflowers are most likely to die over winter, in very wet, cold ground. Fresh new growth can also be hit by hard frosts and it is a good idea to pinch out the growing tips around the end of August – but it is never too late – to create bushy plants and to get rid of any late, vigorous growth. It is a mistake to over-feed the soil, which will only make for this late spurt of growth and; of course, never give wallflowers any kind of fertiliser. The poorer the conditions  the longer they will last, and they can keep going perfectly happily for five years or more. The traditional accompaniment for wallflowers are tulips and they work well, flowering at around the same time, the tall goblets of tulip rising above the massed foliage of the wallflowers.

There is no rush to get tulips in the ground yet – I have planted bulbs as late as January and got a perfectly good spring display, but November is ideal, dotting the bulbs in among the wallflowers. There are two clear schools of thought on tulip planting. The conventional approach is to plant really deep to ensure long life. The other, which I favour, is to plant an inch or two down. This gives them access to the best soil and makes them less likely to sit in wet soil. But it does mean digging most of them up each year. If your wallflowers are a raging success, sow more, even if the plants look entirely content and ready to do it all again next year. Sooner or later they will get a virus, clubroot, grey mould or some such disaster. That is their way. but there is always next year.