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Friday 22 August 2014

Don't overlook the wallflower in spring

Published 18/11/2012 | 05:00

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Wallflowers are an old-fashioned flower, overlooked in recent years amid the trends for prairie plants and tropical borders. But wallflowers have served well for centuries and have proven their worth as spring flowers.

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The main problem with wallflowers, much of the reason for their decline, is how they have been grown in the past. Treated as spring bedding flowers, the planting out of lines of wallflowers was just too much effort, and the emphasis has moved to container planting of spring bedding.

Wallflowers are perfectly suited to use in spring containers, looking especially well with tulips in April and early May, the two kinds of plant flowering beautifully at the same time. Tulips bring elegance and wallflowers are unsurpassed for masses of colour, and for sweet scent.

Choose colours that suit, such as yellow or orange wallflowers with white, orange or red tulips. Two tulip varieties can be used, one to flower early and the other to follow. These can be mixed in the container and fitted in between the wallflowers. Containers can be planted up now, the green leaves of the wallflowers providing some life in winter, along with a few winter pansies perhaps.

Wallflower plants can be used in beds and borders too. Not in the traditional way in big slabs of planting, the plants marshalled in rows, but in small groups of three or five plants, planted at the front of a flower bed or border. These groups can be repeated a few times along a border and, when in flower, the patches of colour will play off each other.

Groups of wallflowers take a small amount of time and effort to plant, cost very little and produce great results. The plants can be taken out after flowering in May, when it is time to plant some summer bedding plants to produce the same effect in summer.

When used in containers, or as spots of colour in a border, wallflowers are taken out and replaced each autumn, but wallflowers are perennials and can be kept for more than a single spring. It is not unusual to see wallflower plants that have self-sown on walls and old buildings.

These are often very old plants, tenaciously surviving in the cracks of crumbling masonry.

Wallflowers are long-lived in very well-drained soil but tend to die out after a few years in heavy soil. The plants can be kept going for years by trimming off the spent flowers to redirect the energy of the plant to build up for the following year.

Sunday Independent

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