Saturday, 24 October 2015

Erysi - mums the word!



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.



I also discovered  that there are colours other than mauve!

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!!


41 comments:

  1. Congratulations on joining the club, I am semi retiring from November. Winter Rouge is tempting me to try again with perennial wallflowers. Our garden tends to be a little shady when next doors trees leaf up.

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    1. I have been waiting to join this elite club Brian ! "Semi' sounds just right at the moment! Enjoy!
      Although most websites I consulted said 'full sun' several said that they would do fine in partial shade. Worth trying anyway! I have been stunned by the flower power of these plnts.

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  2. I hope you're feeling better now, Jane, and that celebrations can continue - congratulations :) Erysimums are offered here - I think as winter annuals - so now you've given me good reason to pay more attention to them! I wonder whether I could carry cuttings through the summer...!

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    1. Hi Amy, much better thanks - fizz has been drunk!
      Erysimums are confusing as there are short lived, shrubby perennials, which I am writing about in this post, and also ones which are usually considered as annuals . Both are wallflowers, but here in the uk it is the winter annuals which are sold as 'wallflowers' whilst the perennial shrubby ones are sold as Erysimums. Clear as mud eh?!!

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  3. How long do your cuttings take to root? I tried some this year and so far zilch. They're in a pukka cuttings propagator too.
    Enjoy your 'retirement'.You'll probably be busier now than you ever were before..

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    1. I took some a few weeks ago and they have visible roots now. Late summer is the recommended time. I wonder why yours are so tardy, Jessica, as they are in a 5* suite!!
      Thanks, I intend to enjoy every second of retirement, and spend even more time with my wellies on!

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  4. I tried some Erysimum cuttings this year (E. Fragrant Star) and I had 100% success rate in such a short time too. They used to be a plant I was never very fond of but I think that was because most of the ones I came across were leggy and past their best. I do agree that the winter wet is possibly more of an issue than the cold though. My E. Fragrant Star also copes well in an extremely windy spot too.
    Wishing you a long and healthy retirement Jane - you lucky lady :)

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    1. Thank you Angie, I will not waste one second of my retirement ! Every one is precious!
      I was never very impressed by them either, I suppose because the flowers are small and, as you say, many get past their use - by date and become leggy. I will check out 'Fragrant Star' - does it do what is says on the tin ? Fragrance and flower size are the main differences between the shrubby and 'annual' Erysimums.

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  5. I have read how many love this plant. I was not successful growing them from seed, but I intend to still try.

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    1. Hi Donna, I was not aware that it was possible to grow the shrubby Erysimums from seed, only from cuttings. Is it the 'annual' you have tried to grow from seed ? I do grow those from seed, and have found them easy to germinate and grow on, so I wonder why yours failed. Definitely worth trying again !!

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  6. I bought a similar collection of erysimums last year. Our purple variety is still flowering to it seems to have flowered forever.
    Congratulations on the retirement. Martyn and I both retired early on the same day a few years go on now and have never looked back.

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    1. How fantastic to retire on the same day ! I can see how well that would work. I am overjoyed to have more time to spend doing all the things I love
      I could hardly believe the length of the flowering period of the Erysimums in my garden. They never seem to stop. Why didn't I discover them years ago.

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  7. I am not familiar with this plant. It looks great.

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    1. Hi Lisa, neither was I until fairly recently! Well worth getting your hands on one if you can.

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  8. I share your admiration and have always wondered why their common name was coopted to describe the shy and unappreciated girl who sat out every dance.

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    1. Funnily enough I was musing about the origins of the name too. Shy and retiring is the LAST thing they are, so I am bemused by the connection !

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  9. Happy retirement! I've never grown Wallflowers, but they are beautiful--especially en masse as you show them. Enjoy your extra gardening time!

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    1. Thank you ! I will enjoy the luxury of extra time gardening!

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  10. Erysimums certainly earn their space in the garden, they just don't want to stop flowering. Every few years I take cuttings to keep them going and they seem to root very easily.
    Enjoy your retirement, you are going to be so busy!

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    1. They certainly do earn their place in the garden, Pauline. How many years do yours seem to last, on average, before you replace them ? Some things I have read suggest they only really last a couple of years, whilst others say around 5. Do you find that the cuttings root easily, as Rusty Duck is struggling with hers, even though they are being well taken care of!!

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    2. I would say about 5 years, then they need replacing with cuttings, which I find root easily for me.

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    3. Thanks for that Pauline, most useful! Interesting that opinion seems to be divided between those who find cuttings root easily, and this who struggle to get them going.

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  11. I love them too Jane and you have made me realise I probably don' t have enough. I have Bowles Mauve, Warburton Sunshine and Ruston Royal but those red and rusty shades are lovely. Fortunately they are so easy.
    Enjoy your semi retirement, more time in the garden- wonderful! Take care, the virus that I have had seems to last for ages, it really drags you down.

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    1. Thank you for your kind comments, Chloris, I will enjoy every minute of that extra time in the garden!
      Hope you are better now after your virus ? I still have little energy but other than that am nearly back to normal.
      I will look up 'Warburton Sunshine' and 'Ruston Royal' as I really must have more ...

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  12. Thank you for posting this - i've been wondering about adding these to my garden for ages, and you've made up my mind. I love, love, love Spice Island. Stunning!

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    1. Do it, Beangenie, you will not regret it !! 'Spice Island' has such lovely rich, warm tones.

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  13. Lovely collection of cultivars of the Erysimums, I have to find out if they sell them here too, I did not see them before, except the 'Bowles Mauve'. Almost 25 years ago I bought a packet of seed of the Erysimum cheiri and all the wallflowers I now have are still descendants of the first ones. They are called wallflowers because they grow best against a wall protected from cold I think. I have them all the time against the front wall of our house in the gravel facing to the north. They are selfseeding there and when the old plants are leggy, I pull them out and put the selfsown young plants against the wall. The smell of the flowers in late spring is heavenly. Now I'm going to look for the wonderful 'Spice Island'.
    Happy gardening Jane.

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  14. I am interested to know that your wallflowers self seed so well. I have just planted out about 100 dwarf scarlet wallflowers and would love to think that they might do the same over the coming years.

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  15. Congratulations on collecting more time for growing perennial erysiums! I love them too, though I found my current favourite, 'Winter Orchid', quickly became very leggy indeed. In fact, I was hoping to get trimming tips from your post! My first round of cuttings died thanks to a faulty propagator, but I have plug plants waiting in the wings. I may have to check out some of your favourites too...

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    1. 'Winter Orchid' is lovely Janet, but the feeling was clearly not mutual with my plant, as it took an instant dislike to me and died!!
      I wonder if the key to successful cuttings is bottom heat (no sniggering please!). Some comments suggest they are easy as cuttings, whilst others struggle.

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  16. Oh more time on your hands for gardening Jane - that has to be a move in the right direction! I feel a strong magnetic pull to 'Spice Island' :)

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    1. Anna, I am so excited about the extra time. What better gift is there in this world?
      Go for it with 'Spice Island', it really is special!

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  17. Wallflowers are one of my most fave plants. I don't know anything so reliable and beautiful and long lived. I grow the purple and the orange, I love the mustardy yellow ones but haven't planted that one. Glad to hear you've recovered from the flu - enjoy the extra time in the garden

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    1. I totally agree Sue, I wish I had realised all this YEARS ago! I am such a recent convert!

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  18. Wallflowers are one of my most fave plants. I don't know anything so reliable and beautiful and long lived. I grow the purple and the orange, I love the mustardy yellow ones but haven't planted that one. Glad to hear you've recovered from the flu - enjoy the extra time in the garden

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  19. Wallflowers are one of my most fave plants. I don't know anything so reliable and beautiful and long lived. I grow the purple and the orange, I love the mustardy yellow ones but haven't planted that one. Glad to hear you've recovered from the flu - enjoy the extra time in the garden

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  20. I have always had a few Erysimums Jane, usually 'Bowles Mauve', and as you say they are easy to propagate. This year I have started converting my containers from bedding to perennials and as a consequence have bought in some cheap plants, including 'Spice Island', for this purpose so I am looking forward to developments.

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    1. Hi Rick, we have been trying to do the same thing and save time and effort by converting from annuals to perennials for pots and tubs. I hadn't thought of using Erysimum, so will be very interested to see how they perform for you.

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  21. This is a new plant for me too, and I agree – the Internet is a wonderful place for plant hungry gardeners. Can be a quite expensive place too as the vast amount of plants available is mind boggling for a humble plantaholic, I just want one of each of everything!
    And congratulations on retiring, seems like you will have enough to fill your days with anyway :-)

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  22. I too aim for one of everything! Pah to this planting in threes and fives ! What a waste of plant space!

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  23. Congratulations and I hope you are feeling better. I am about to semi-retire as well and move across the country! It is a very strange feeling. I hope to have more time to garden in a fantastic climate and create a new garden.

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