This is a post to laud the humble Erysimum, to big it up to new heights and highlight its many charms. It has taken me many years to appreciate the delights of the perennial wallflower, and, indeed, I have only grown them for about the past four years.
My penchant for them started quite by chance, in an impulse buy from a market stall as I was passing by. I bought 4 Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve', which is the most common and well known variety. At the time I had a big new bed which needed to be filled, and I planted my four new, little plants, thinking how lost they looked amidst all the bare earth.
Within a year they had all filled out to be well clothed, symmetrical spheres of glaucous foliage, topped by prolific, mauve flowers. They made real statements in the garden, and I realised that they would define key points in the garden well, if they were placed strategically. They would enhance the structure and design if used properly, just as individual yew and box can do, but in a much shorter time.
The internet is a wonderful thing for plant - hungry gardeners ! All things are out there to be found with a wave of the Google wand. I discovered that there are offers to be had, where different varieties of Erysimum are sold very cheaply. They are little more than plug plants, but that is fine, as I can grow them on in the greenhouse.
My absolute favourite is 'Spice Island' which is a mixture of lovely warm, winter shades of red, purple and tawny orange. These different shades appear on a single flower head, making for a most interesting mix of colours.
There are exciting other cultivars and colours too, such as .....,
'Apricot Twist' - a stronger, tawnier orange than the name may suggest.
'Rysi Bronze' - more compact than some, at 30cm (height) x 40 cm (spread), with orangey/ yellow flowers. Described as completely hardy.
'Rysi Moon' - an early flowering variety, from March - July, about the same dimensions as 'Rysi Bronze'. Described on different sites as both 'completely hardy' and 'needing protection'!! Yellow buds opening to creamy, white flowers.
'Winter Rouge' -flowers nearly all year round, except in the depths of winter. I'll write that again... flowers nearly all year round ... take that you peonies and lupins !! Flowers are terracotta orange with shades of pink and purple. About the same size, fully grown as 'Bowles Mauve'.
I can't find many disadvantages to Erysimums but the main one seems to be that they are short-lived. This can be easily overcome by taking cuttings, or buying cheap young plants, and growing them on, keeping them in the wings until they are needed to replace a doomed older plant. As even well grown plants are inexpensive, it will never break the bank to buy new ones.
Cuttings are extremely easy to take, and easy to propagate. Semi - ripe cuttings of about 8 - 15 cm are taken from the parent plant in late summer. They root easily and well in the greenhouse. They are not raised from seed, but only from cuttings.
I have read that older plants can become leggy, but have not encountered that problem yet. Cutting back may help to solve that, if necessary.
I have found them to be disease and pest resistant in my garden, and certainly not prone to attack from slugs, snails or anything else for that matter, although the RHS indicates that they can be.
One of the best things about them is the flowering season, which seems to be the longest of anything I am currently growing in the garden. The RHS state that they flower from February to July but mine have done much better than this, and are still flowering strongly now, in mid October. The flower stems can get leggy, so need to be cut off when this happens.
The RHS states that they are 'borderline hardy', but mine have all come through the last three winters, which admittedly have not been very harsh. Several websites say some varieties are totally hardy, whilst others say winter protection is needed. It probably depends on the micro climate of the garden as to how they cope with winter. As they prefer well drained soils, perhaps it is wet roots which make them curl up their toes, rather than cold temperatures alone.
Erysimums love the sun, and need to be in full sun, as they do not do well in shade. Bees adore them, so that is another huge tick in a box. As they are evergreen, they keep their narrow leaves all year round, giving structure to the winter garden.
So, what's not to love? trouble is I can feel another of my anorak moments coming on, where I want to collect them all, then quietly gloat over their wonderfulness. Oh dear ... just me, then!
On a personal note, I will be able to spend more time digging, planting and growing as I finally retired this week from my main job (Job no. 1), leaving only one day per week for Job no. 2, and one day per month for Job no. 3 . How fantastic is that! Ironically, the evening of my retirement I was struck with a mean - spirited virus which prevented me from even enjoying a single celebratory glass of fizz ... until tonight!!