Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wallflowers - Cheiranthus Cheiri

A stripey rain soaked wallflower 
This is the time for wallflowers, belonging to the genus Erysimum, their bright oranges, yellow and deep reds  adorn the walls and verge sides, slightly untidy and not very glamourous cruciferous plants.  Years ago could buy an untidy bunch of the plants at our local greengrocer in Bath, tied with string and mud clinging to their roots in autumn, hardy as well (cold fingers as you pushed their strong roots into the soil).  Not sure if they are wild, they straddle that line of cottage flowers  creeping out of the garden anyway, or into, take your pick.
We have them in the front growing in impoverished soil under the laurel hedge, they have danced over to the green and into other people's gardens. You bring them into the house for their spicy perfume but not their elegance.  William Robinson says of them,
"The wallflower is a native of Southern Europe, growing on old walls, quarries and sea cliffs, it loves a wall better than garden, it grows coarsely in garden soil but forms a dwarf enduring bush on an old wall if planted in mortar"
He recommends growing them in dry stony banks in the rock garden, or on old ruins, many different varieties were grown round the London nurseries in the 19th century..

Bowles Mauve its grey foliage setting off the mauve of the flower. 

There is another wallflower in the garden, Bowles Mauve, a shrubby perennial much loved by the solitary bee, which I call the Pulmonaria bee ,(Anthophora plumipes), which feeds on the early lungwort flowers at this time of the year, and which the old garden was full of, as it spread itself quite happily.
I'm not sure of this fact, but I think Bowles Mauve was raised by the Reverend William Lisle Bowles, who wrote atrocious 19th century poetry and lived at Bremhill not too far from Calne in Wiltshire where once I lived.  An Important Person, or so it would seem from the biographies online ;)

White sweet rocket growing against the wall on Bath racecourse.  This would be a survivor from  the old cottage that stood where now the modern house stands.
I notice in my wildflower book (Margery Blamey) that the other beautiful cottage flower Sweet Rocket or Dames Violet, or even Hesperis Matronalis to give it its latin name also appears on the same page.  Another crucifera but much more beautiful than the bright yellow of the oil rape seed that is growing at the moment - wild mustard all these spicy plants.....

Rain has been falling for the last two weeks, sometimes sun and showers, other times heavy storms, so we are at least getting some of our quota of water from the heavens above.


  1. I have looked up your bee, and found it is one we have here too, and its common name is the Hairy Footed Flower Bee!! HFFB . . . sounds very Roald Dahl : )

    I don't have any wallflowers in the garden here now - my perennial Erysimum snuffed it in the snow of two winters back I think. You have now made me yearn for a Bowles Mauve . . .

    I love to see the wallflowers growing in castle walls.

  2. Never been able to see the feet of bees, but the black one is the female the brown the male, they have a long proboscis like a humming bird....