Sixty years ago when I worked for my uncle he used to grow tens of thousands of wall flower plants every year. He would thinly sow seed in outside beds during late June and July and the following spring would lift them and bundle up a dozen at a time, wrap them in newspaper and take them to market where he had a permanent stall. (The family had a stall at The Nottingham market for exactly 100 years from late Victorian times until a decade or so ago). Gardeners would buy these bundles of wallflowers in April, plant them in the garden and have full sized flowering plants a month later.
I was talking recently to the landscape designer and gardener, Stephen Read. Stephen, who was trained at Government House in Sydney, did a spell working at Clifton Nurseries, one of London’s best garden centres, where he was their garden designer. When he saw the wallflowers in my garden he told me that wallflowers are still grown in the traditional way by some English nurserymen and are still planted in spring in London gardens.
During the first week of last May I planted several thousand Dutch tulips and a similar number of an old fashioned and fairly small flowered mixed strain of Ranunculus in the flower and vegetable garden. The first to be planted were the tulips followed by the ranunculus. I like the contrast of foliage between the large grey smooth leaves of the tulips and the green ferny leaves of the Ranunculus. The tulips were planted 10 to 15cm deep, the ranunculus about half that.
Last February I sowed several hundred 7.5cm pots with three varieties of wallflowers, one seed per pot. These were ready to be planted out in May and were planted with the tulips and Ranunculus.
Wallflowers have been grown in English gardens since at least Elizabethan times where the strong fragrance, somewhere between a primrose and a sweet violet, made them a favourite nosegay that helped to smother the stench of Tudor cities. The old seed raised strains, which are usually treated as biennials, have a much better scent than the shrubby types such as ‘Bowle’s Mauve’. Wallflowers are easy to grow as long as the soil is well drained. They’ll happily grow in rubble, wasteland and even walls
|Wallflower ‘Ruby Gem’ flowering with purple tulips.||Wallflower ‘Cloth of Gold’ with its large warm bright yellow flowers flowering with orange and red tulips.||Wallflower ‘Fire King’ with hot coloured tulips in the vegetable garden.|