Wallflowers are one of my joys of spring as they bring some of the first glimpses of the impending summer colour, the foot soldiers marching the rest of the garden forward. Planted en-masse they fill an area over winter, hiding the bare soil, then burst out into a shower of rich colours just when they’re needed the most. But they are often ignored as just that, something to stuff in where there’s a space and not given the reverence that I believe they deserve. The ones that I’ve got just come from previous years seed, and have done since I first bought some, I’m not fussy about the colour as there’s not a lot else at this point in the year that’s going to, or not going to clash with them. I’m certainly abusing the beauty of these flowers as they’re mostly used to fill a gap over winter where otherwise I’d be looking at barren soil, and to furnish me with this little spring joy. I’ve also not taken too much time with different species of the genus Erysimum as there are over 180, mostly opting for some bog standard colours, but there are a host of other more exotic flavours. From the capitatum or sand dune wallflower to the tiny arctic pallasii, I feel like my display is quite plain.
I can’t remember when I sowed mine, it was most likely early summer last year and maybe a little early as they’ve got quite tall and leggy in places, they do fill the space nicely though as they are fairly large right now. The tough old things even survived having an old pear tree removed from right next to them that was replaced with a rescued Silver Birch.
Wallflowers are also one of the easiest plants to grow, put the seeds in the ground in a loamy seed or nursery bed in early summer, then transplant them in Autumn where you want to experience their majesty next year. They’ll happily sit here over the winter looking a little bedraggled at times, nothing a little clean up when the frost is over won’t fix. In fact, most need a little cold to get them flowering, which is why you don’t see them in the Autumn. Like with any plant there are exceptions, such as the British-bred “Sugar Rush” that can kick off without the usual requirement for vernalisation.
As part of the Brassica family, they’re prone to the same diseases as others like cabbages and cauliflowers, as such it’s best to keep some sort of rotation going. This just means that each year you’ll have them delight you from a different angle.