Thinking about spring

My apologies for the radio silence over the past week; it was time for my twice-yearly visit to the UK to visit relatives. I have just about recovered from the experience. I could write a long post about the indignity of flying, but won’t. I will just say that it gets worse every time and that they ought to pay us to fly. In fairness, the flight is not the worst part, it is the airport. I may rant on facebook but this is not the place!

So, what have I been doing in the garden? Not a lot since I got back last night but, before I went, it was time to plant wallflowers.

Wallflowers are not as popular as they once were. Part of the reason was the introduction of ‘winter-flowering pansies’ and violas. Wallflowers don’t provide any colour, once planted, until late March and April and people want instant colour. They also don’t grow well, as seedlings, in trays of compost. You can see them for sale as clusters of seedlings in autumn but these tiny plants, once separated and planted out, don’t make big plants before the cold weather, so the spring display is mediocre. People seem to want instant colour so rather than plant seed-raised plants, put in the ground five months before they bloom, people buy ‘perennial’ wallflowers, in bloom, in pots for 8 euro in spring. Nice though these are, they are no use for the traditional spring bedding with tulips unless you have a huge budget.

‘In the old days’ wallflowers, sown in July, were ‘pulled’ in late September and October, bunched in tens, wrapped in newspaper and sold from trays of shallow water in garden centres. You had to buy them as soon as they were in stock or they were yellow and smelly (they are brassicas after all). The other problem is that they can be infected with clubroot disease, that affects all brassicas, and you could introduce the disease into your garden.

So it is best to grow your own, but they are quite a bit of work. You need strong, bushy plants in autumn and that means sowing in early July. Then they need to be transplanted (or thinned) so they are about 10cm apart and then the tips are pinched out so they are nice and bushy. My plants needed daily watering in the heat of summer just to keep them alive but, once more normal weather returned, they leapt into growth and last week some were planted in the raised bed.

I am rarely proud of anything I grow but I was pleased with my wallflowers.

After giving them a good soak, preferably the night before, they can be lifted with a trowel and taken to the plating site. You can be rough with them and, if you are, they usually drop a fair number of leaves and they can go yellow before they recover. But I didn’t need to be so rough so they were only out of the ground for a few minutes. It is obviously best to do this job on a dull day to reduce wilting.

Where bedding is planted every year, usually twice a year, I like to add some improvement to the soil in autumn. Things are less rushed now than in late spring and it seems the right time to fork in organic matter, in this case leafmould. Wallflowers like firm soil though and because they are quite large plants I made sure that; they had room to grow a little and that they were firmed in well.

Once they were in, and watered, it was time to pop in the tulips between them. Always put in the plants first and the bulbs after – so you don’t push a trowel through the bulbs when you plant! I am putting bright red tulips in this year after the pastel yellow of last year. The photo above is actually faked because these are the yellow tulips, that I saved and sorted and will be put somewhere else. The red tulips have not arrived yet but as you can plant tulips in November without any harm, they will be added in a few weeks, if the package from The Netherlands is not held up in customs for a month, as it was last year!

The wallflowers are ‘double-flowered’ mixed. It will be interesting to see what they turn out like. I usually prefer single colours but you have to try something different now and then and they should smell just as sweet. It is important, when you grow a mix of any plant, that you grow on ‘all’ the seedlings, even the weaker ones because they are often the ‘best’ colours and I am sure that, if any of plants do have double flowers, they will be the weaker, smaller seedlings.

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4 Comments on “Thinking about spring”

  1. Paddy Tobin
    October 7, 2022 at 5:40 pm #

    The scent from wallflowers is another beautiful feature

    • thebikinggardener
      October 8, 2022 at 9:45 am #

      Absolutely! And thank you for the mention the other day. Apologies for not commenting earlier but I was out of the country.

  2. david price
    October 7, 2022 at 5:48 pm #

    Hello. Thank you for your latest on your garden. It is always very interesting. Please continue. Bye.

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