Wonderful wallflowers!


I’ve finally done it. Every year I forget to buy wallflowers in autumn, or I buy them and they’re disappointing – I am on acid soil, after all – or I buy them, forget what they are, and weed them out (ahem). A few years ago I bought some seeds and planted them carefully, snug in sectioned seed trays. They sat about not doing a lot and I kept forgetting they were there. But they thrived. So the autumn before last I planted them out, thinking I would have a lovely display come the spring.


I nearly, nearly rooted them up. But something stopped me, and I’m so glad it did. I walked round the corner in February, and this is what I saw:


They’d suddenly decided to flower. And what is more, they’d suddenly decided to smell. No, that word’s evocative of pigsties and adolescent boys’ trainers. They scented the air for metres around. And they’ve gone on, and on, and on.

wallflowers 2

They shouldn’t be doing this – acid soil, remember? I can only assume that the bed in which I planted them – below the gable end of the house – isn’t as acid as the rest of the garden, possibly as a consequence of repointing the gable end ten years ago. I’d not tested it, but I will do so now, because if it is a bit more alkaline there are other plants which might flourish. Apart from the ******* Geranium macrorrhizum album and the lemon balm, that is. And always supposing I can shoehorn something else in beside those thugs (yes, I could move them, and yes, I have tried). It would have to be yellows, pinks, oranges – the wallflowers are bang on for the later colours of this bed. Er, apart from the hollyhocks which are supposed to be black. The first one flowered pink, so maybe the others will fit in too.

But for the moment, I’m enjoying the wallflowers.

wallflowers 3

They are proving surprisingly tough little bs, as well. They were blasted by the storms – they are slap bang in the line of fire, on a direct route between the sea and the hills, sitting just where the wind is funnelled down the side of the house. Many of the leaves shrivelled or went brown at the tips and edges, but they shrugged that off: fine now, thanks.

My one regret is that I didn’t plant more, but I’m rectifying that for next year – and, of course, I’m hoping that these will self-seed. Of course there’s a risk that they’ll revert to yellow, but I don’t mind that: it’s such a rich, generous yellow. Really lifts the heart and brightens up a gloomy day.

wallflowers 5

And then there’s the scent. It’s extraordinarily strong – I could smell it in the greenhouse the other day even though the wind was in the opposite direction, and that’s well away from the wallflowers. But I think the real reason why I love them is the memories they evoke. I remember them growing out of the top of a farmyard wall in France, where they fascinated me; my pockets were always full of popping seedheads and my mother used to complain endlessly about them getting everywhere when she took my coat off. And they grew under my window at college – not such a positive memory, that one, as it always meant the run towards exams and the scary realisation that I’d spent too much time in the bar and far too little in the library.

And, of course, they are such a fabulous splash of colour early in the season.

wallflower strip

Looking at this shot I think I may have another key to why they’ve done well: unconsciously, I seem to have recreated some of the conditions present in those farm walls. Very dry. I know the languages are similar – Breton and Welsh are the same branch of Celtic, along with Cornish – and perhaps the underlying geology is too. I must look it up (anything to stop me from continuing to muck out the garden stores – pigsty next, home of the biggest ant nest in Christendom).

Wonder if I can remember what this blend was called? Wonder if I kept a record? Hm – think I know the answer to that one, but perhaps searching would delay the cleaning up even more…


20 Comments Add yours

  1. Pauline says:

    Your wallflowers look wonderful, such a bright springtime colour. I don’t think they would like our heavy clay, so I’ve never tried them here. I find it so wonderful when something surprises me like that in the garden, when you turn a corner and can’t help saying Wow! They look lovely in your wall, they show up beautifully against the grey of the stone.

    1. kate says:

      They’re so warming, the floral equivalent of hunkering down by an open fire (and today we need that, brrr). I really didn’t expect anything – perhaps I should try neglect more often!

  2. croftgarden says:

    One of the flowers of my childhood and the scent is imprinted on my memory. So why have I never tried growing them? Definitely one for my list of things to try. Thank you

    1. kate says:

      Go for it – if they’ll grow in the West Wales Wind Tunnel (aka my garden), they’ll grow for you. They’re just not fashionable – poo to that…

      1. croftgarden says:

        I never been a “fashionista”!, so wallflowers definitely get my vote.

        1. kate says:

          Nor me (I love the Sarah Raven catalogue, but I regard it as a work of fantasy). And fashion in flowers always seems silly, though it can sometimes bring good things to the fore like my lovely Cirsium rivulare, which bizarrely decided it was a winter-flowering plant (it’s doing it properly now).

  3. Cathy says:

    Is there something wrong with Geranium macrorrhizum album then….? 😉 I have just discovered the joys of wallflower fragrance, so I know where you are coming from – except that I can’t claim to have grown mine from seed. Well done you 🙂

    1. kate says:

      There is when you’ve got as much of the damn thing as I have – it’s all over the place. I gave a friend nearly 20 plants, and there’s still more than I can handle. It sprrrrreeeeeeaaaadds everywhere. Except for the one place I’d rather like it to take root, but that’s plants for you… grrrr…

      I must try ignoring my seeds more often, if the success of the wallflowers is anything to go by!

  4. alderandash says:

    Oh no, now there’s another plant I want to add to my ever-expanding Seed List of Doom! They do look lovely, tho…

    1. kate says:

      They are – plant and ignore, that’s evidently the key!

  5. pbmgarden says:

    Well done. The wallflowers are such cheerful colors.

    1. kate says:

      I am so glad I didn’t rip them up last year. Just goes to show that you shouldn’t be too tidy (hee hee)…

  6. Christina says:

    Your wallflowers are wonderful Kate, I will get some seed to grow for next year for the cuttings bed (I can see that this is already far to small for all the things I want to grow! AsPauline said it is wonderful to turn a corner and suddenly feel the wow factor! The perfume is the icing on the cake.

    1. kate says:

      They’re so pretty… I’m going to have to buy seed too, because the only packet I’ve got is a freebie and they’re purples etc. I need orange at this time of year (and particularly at the end of Feb, when these started)!

  7. hillwards says:

    Fabulous wallflowers indeed. How funny – mine grown from seed the autumn before last also escaped being ripped up in the autumn (because I’d sown their replacements a bit late, and they looked really weedy) and are even bigger and better this year than last. But obviously it was intentional on both our parts, really: great minds, or something?

    1. kate says:

      Hah – must have been something about wallflowers last year! Oh, sorry – definitely intentional, we knew.

  8. There is definitely something to be said for neglecting seedlings – sometimes, anyway! Love your blast of cheerfulness from the wallflowers, mine failed and have gone to the compost heap, but I do have some ‘Bowles Mauve’ plug plants coming soon, which will help, and they are on the list for sowing in July… I adore them, and the perennial ones even more, the scent, the way the flower for so long, what’s not to love!

    I have lots – and lots – of little pots full of G. mac., waiting for me to be brave enough to plant them. They all came from one small mass of roots that Fil brought me last September. A pretty thug, but a thug nonetheless…

    1. kate says:

      If you should want any more G Mac I can help, 😉 – no problems! I’ve just planted some for – hopefully – next year, when I’m hoping to have enough to fill the front of the whole bed and not just one corner. You’re right – what’s not to love indeed.

      1. Hmm, thanks, but no thanks! Though I am planning to actually plant out some of the G. mac. in the back wild border, in amongst the wild garlic, they should get on famously…

        1. kate says:

          Shame. Damn.

          My wild garlic is spreading, but that’s OK – I want it to. I love the smell, reminds me of my childhood. Really. Not France, in North Yorkshire…

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