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WONDER WALLFLOWERS: These enduring bedding plants guarantee colour and fragrance

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Spring flowers are wonderful, but many of them are short-lived. The poet Robert Herrick cried to see the daffodils “going away so quickly”.

Tulips come and go in three weeks, but not wallflowers. These hardy souls bloom fragrant from March to June – and that after a winter of greenery.

It may seem silly to recommend them now when they are nearly finished. But May is the month to sow wallflower seeds.

Nigel Colborn says May is the month to start sowing wallflower seeds.  UK-based gardening expert advises starting next weekend for next spring

Nigel Colborn says May is the month to start sowing wallflower seeds. UK-based gardening expert advises starting next weekend for next spring

They will grow this summer for transplanting in September. There are also perennial wallflowers, which are similar to flowerbeds but bloom longer. Small alpine wallflowers also exist.

Wallflower names can be confusing. The bedding varieties are the Cheiranthus. The rest is mainly composed of Erysimum. All have four-petalled flowers, most of them fragrant.

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The bedding wallflowers are the most fragrant. For formal beds, nothing but forget-me-nots pairs so nicely with tulips. Wallflowers also provide fragrance, which most tulips lack.

WORRY-FREE BEDDING

If you want to grow wallflowers for next spring, start this weekend. Young plants grown from seed sown now can be transplanted in early fall.

There is no need to bother with sowing in containers and transplanting. All you need is a prepared seedbed outdoors – perhaps near your vegetables. Sow seeds thinly, in shallow drills, in well-prepared soil. Keep an eye on growing plants and water them in case of drought.

By late August you should have rows of bushy plants. Raise them between this date and the beginning of October. Space them evenly, in a forked bed or in groups in a mixed border. Flowering begins hesitantly in March, reaching a peak in May.

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Litter types are also excellent for cut flowers. They last in water and will fill a room with their sweet scent. Gather seeds from ripened pods in the summer.

In my youth, almost everyone planted wallflowers. Today they are grown less often. Formal bedding is often scoffed at, but wallflowers don’t need to be regimented. They are beautiful even in the most dilapidated plantings and pollinators love them.

PRETTY PERENNIALS

Then there are the perennial types. At best, the taller ones are bushy and laden with flowers. Most grow taller and wider than the bedding wallflowers, flowering consistently but less profusely.

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The best known is Erysimum Bowles Mauve, a stiff-stemmed subshrub with grey-green leaves, dark buds and purplish flowers. The cuttings will take root in a few weeks.

You will get at least 18 months of nearly continuous flowering from a young Bowles Mauve plant. Then it becomes lean, woody and loses its vigour.

Other perennial varieties are less shrubby with softer stems. Among these, crocus.co. uk offers Spring Breeze Sunset, a beauty with orange flowers that turn plum-mauve as they age. Red Jep is similar but a more brassy bronze.

Then there are small alpine varieties. They grow as small, scruffy mounds. My favorite, Moonlight, is an old variety with creamy yellow flowers.

Softer-stemmed perennial wallflowers all spread easily. Cut cuttings from semi-mature shoots. Root in a good potting soil, in a warm place.

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