Tuesday, May 01, 2007

BBB: Wallflower

I think biennials have fallen out of favor. I can understand why. They must be difficult for a greenhouse to sell. Most customers would be reluctant to buy the plant during its first year, without any blooms or even a promise of flowers that season. By the time the second year rolls around, it has to compete with annuals, which are (1) cheaper and (2) more likely to bloom all season. In fact, the only biennials I’ve seen for sale is foxglove and the occasional hollyhock.

I wouldn’t have bothered with biennials either, except that so many are recommended in books on fragrant plants and cottage gardening. There were also a few I unwittingly purchased as seeds that were marked “perennial.” I ended up started a number of biennials from seed during the 2005/6 Winter Sowing extravaganza. This season, I’ll reap the benefits of my preparations. In an effort to Bring Back Biennials (BBB), I plan to highlight the plants as they come into bloom.

This week’s profiled plant is wallflower, which is almost always mentioned in older fragrant gardening books. The specific variety I grew is Erysimum x allionii, from Swallowtail Seeds. I germinated the seeds through the winter sowing method and got good germination rates. In fact, I ended up with so many plants that I didn’t have space to plant them all. (A number of them are bravely blooming in the Pit of Despair.) I planted the nicest plants into the front garden last fall. At that time, they formed neat little rosettes.

This spring, those rosettes expanded into gangly, and somewhat weedy-looking, stalks. I suppose the garish orange flowers are a little coarse as well. The scent, though, more than makes up for the 2-year wait and any ungainliness. I seem to recall that the scent was described as “clove-like,” but I think wallflower smell like a citrusy rose. Like most heavy scents, the perfume tends to sink, so it is best appreciated while weeding nearby. I hope the plants will self-sow because I’d like to see the garish orange, but sweetly scented, blooms every spring. (I love the combination with the forget-me-not, another biennial, in the photo.)

Germination: easy
Culture: easy
Form: neat first year, gangly second year
Scent: strong citrus rose
Color: slightly muddy orange



Blogger Entangled said...

Oooh, I think those are pretty. And scented too! Imagine them planted amongst tulips - either complementary or contrasting....

I always thought of wallflowers as another English garden plant that "won't grow here", but yours tell a different story.

Bring back biennials! (with fist raised)

3:50 AM  
Anonymous Renee said...

How is your husbands hand? I have been so worried since he had to have surgery. I read about this on your daughters blog:) You have such a great blog!

6:36 AM  
Blogger Kasmira said...

Hi Renee - I think you have me mixed up with someone else!

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Renee said...

I am so sorry you must think I am "Nuts" I was reading another blog "This Garden is Illegal" and they said they were visiting their parents in Cincinnati and it had a link to you I thought you were their parents. I am glad your husband is fine:)

I really like your blog and we are building a deck to look just like yours:) I saw the picture of your deck and just loved it. I will send pictures of it when we are finished:)

Happy Gardening:)


10:22 AM  

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