Wallflowers – Spring Plans!

When you’re looking forward to next years garden, it’s obviously a good idea to have a plan and at the moment I’ve got visions of wonderful swathes of flower filled borders all year round! This vision is not new – but in certain areas of the garden, my ambition has not been realised – for several reasons:

  • I don’t start planning sufficiently ahead of time
  • I’m an impulsive plant buyer
  • I don’t use many annuals
  • I buy a variety of singles plants and so instead of a border with my envisaged swathes of no more than 5 varieties, by midsummer there’s a hotch potch theme going on, particularly in the ‘hot’ border
  • It’s expensive to buy 3-5 perennial plants at (nowadays) in excess of £7.99 for a litre pot
  • My home propagation has had mixed success, due mainly (I think) to the lack of greenhouse space and no room for a decent sized seed bed

When you know a bit about where you’ve been going wrong, there’s really no excuse for repeating your mistakes and now that I have my wonderful greenhouse I’m determined to make up for lost time.

fullsizeoutput_2d40As soon as the greenhouse was completed, I selected a variety of seeds whose packets indicated that July is a suitable month for sowing plants for next spring and summer. These included Cheiranthus cheiri (wallflower) ‘Red Blood’ as a potentially great companion for tulips in a spring border.

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In the border where I intend to plant these wallflowers, there are already lots of  tulipa ‘Ballerina’. I’ll be putting more in at the beginning of November, along with the wonderful dark purple ‘Queen of the Night’ for contrast.

The border space is quite limited due to the perennials already in place, including Helenium ‘Waltraut’ and alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’  – I’ve been really happy with these plants for later in the season, both are still flowering now. I have however reduced the size of the geum rivale in the picture as it can be rather rampant and had outgrown a reasonable space.

 

I have sown more wallflowers for other borders, after reading my lovely book about  Giverny, but these were really late and unfortunately, as I posted a while back – my seedlings ‘Ruby Gem’ suffered a caterpillar attack – well they have   recovered, but I’m sure they’re not big enough for planting out yet. Wallflower ‘Blood Red’ on the other hand, had by this weekend reached a height (when straightened out), of about 5 inches.

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However, I’ve now read Sarah Raven‘s tips on growing wallflowers from seed and realised that in order to follow her advice, my seeds would have been better sown in May or June so that they could have been planted out in August for the best spring flowering results. Other tipsters, including Monty Don, indicate a planting out time in September/October, so I was fairly happy that I hadn’t completely missed the boat – that is until I watched Monty in a BBC Gardeners World film – his wallflowers, ready for transplanting from a seed bed to their final position, were huge! And flowering! So – best laid plans and all that, we’ll just have to wait until spring to measure my levels of success.

Ms Raven also has a couple more tips, firstly on planting style, advocating drifting groups of 15 plants rather than the usual recommendation of 3 to 5. As I had 48 plants and a comparatively small area, I followed this tip. The second tip relates to achieving a vertical and straight habit using a pea and bean netting support at 8″ above the plants. Unfortunately my plants were already rather bent and as I don’t really like the thought such a structure filling the area over winter – I’m concerned it would be a bit of an eyesore if my plants don’t grow quickly to conceal it,  I devised my own method. Each plant has a small pea stick loosely tied to it, making sure there is growing room for the stem – I’m hoping as they get bigger and stronger as they reach for the sky I’ll be able to remove the stakes. This method is certainly not a recommendation at this point in time, but I’ll keep you posted.

I’ve followed general tips on planting space – approximately 8 inches apart, with compost in the base of the planting holes and a good mulch and watering in over the whole area. It seems that molluscs do not like wallflowers, so hopefully they’ll not be eaten immediately, but they do attract flea beetle – so as per Ms Raven’s advice, I have bought yellow fly strips to as she puts it ‘walk along with a yellow fly strip stretched across the line of wallflowers. Follow them close behind ruffling the leaves of every plant. The flea beetles hop up on to the strip and stick!’

DSC_0848Fingers crossed! I’ll be making my my New Year sowing plans soon. I’m aiming to sow for summer and autumn flowering, but I’ve got a start – my delphinium seedlings are now proper little plants, all potted up for next year and I’ve taken cuttings from three penstemons – these are reportedly easy to propagate. My next big challenge however, is over-wintering my dahlias and cannas!

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