Perks of growing native wallflowers

Wallflower. Picture by Tom Pattinson
Wallflower. Picture by Tom Pattinson

Recent sunny days have certainly helped showcase some favourite seasonal plants. Native wallflower, good old rosemary and summer viburnum have entertained as only they can.

The bloom of various bulbs has come and gone with grape hyacinth turning up late but brilliant as usual.

Erysimum is the current botanical name for wallflowers and we have several patches of the traditional bedding type on show in parts of the garden.

They are short-lived perennials grown as biennials, developing from seed one year and flowering the next, after which they are removed to make way for summer bedding and end up on the compost heap.

Raising them from seed is straight-forward. A packet of the old favourite, Persian Carpet Mixed, costs under £2 and holds 400. Good value for money.

During June, we sow the seed in a shallow drill on one of the island vegetable beds and there they can remain until autumn planting.

If you have time and spare land available, transplant some when they reach 10cm to 15cm, to encourage development.

If they fail to form a bushy shape naturally, pinching out their growing tips will do the trick.

There are also two true perennial wallflower groups in this garden.

The first is the current favourite erysimum that appears in collection offers throughout the gardening media.

For years, we had to content ourselves with growing the lovely Bowles Mauve but now we have several coloured cultivars, even one with variegated foliage.

They too are a good investment in plant propagation because soft-stem cuttings taken from June to late August root quite easily.

But biggest treasure for us is the true medieval wallflower, formerly cheiranthus cheri, that erupts from a dry stone wall - which is, after all, what these plants are supposed to do.

In days of yore, when castles and monastic buildings had basic sanitary facilities, what better plant to have growing outside your window on a warm spring day than something fragrant?

But how do you get them to grow in tiny crevices? Simple. Mix soil and water into a muddy texture that will stick, mix in the seeds and fling against the wall cracks.

It worked for me and five years on we have a good crop of plants that develop flowering stems over 30cm long every year.

When blooms fade, seed pods can be gathered, then all growth is pruned back to 10cm.

Look at the walls of some medieval sites in Northumberland and you’ll find this remnant of the past in glorious bloom right now.