Arthur's Blog: The Marriage of Wallflowers and Tulips

10th April 2017

Arthur's Blog: The Marriage of Wallflowers and Tulips

Wallflowers and tulips go hand in hand in the traditional English garden. This relationship is one of mutual adoration with the two flowers complementing each other rather than competing, regardless of what colours they may be.

The tulips provide statements like exclamation marks of full impact in the display, while the wallflowers whirl around them. These give colour in a totally different, more delicate form and pump out clouds of rich, exotic fragrance.

Both are demanding, in their own ways. The wallflowers are the most diva-like. I grow my wallflowers from seed. These biennials are best sown in July so that by early October, when they need to be planted into the ground or in containers, they have formed strong plants that will cope with the coming winter weather. Tulip bulbs are planted later, underneath but deeply around the wallflowers, using a very thin and long trowel in November.

Pot grown wallflowers, provided they have been potted on in good time and kept well-fed with a liquid manure feed while in their pots, should be green and healthy looking all through the winter. Bare root wallflowers in comparison, often die over the winter having failed, in the cold soil they have been planted into to develop a good root structure. For them to stand a chance they must be planted as soon as possible – ideally in September.

A new robust series of wallflowers have come onto the market, known as the sunset series. I have grown several of these new ones and they are proving to be very robust and of beautiful shades. I didn’t actually know, however, that I was growing yellow-flowering wallflowers until now. The mistake has been a happy one though, due to the launch of our Yellow Wallflower pattern this spring – so we have both on display in the gift shop this Easter!

The gentle giant Darwin hybrid tulips have come back with as much vigour as they did in their first spring, looking beautiful in all manner of pink to apricot, cream shades. I’d really recommend these tulips if you see them for sale as bulbs this autumn – they are good value, of huge flower heads but look fabulous. I have mixed them with the peony flowering, early tulip called ‘Chato’. It has been a good spring so far for these double, heavy-headed tulips with the rain falling softly – rather than in hard spring storms which batter such varieties, leaving them looking very beaten up with the stains of hard raindrops on their silk petals. With so much pink in full bloom, the courtyard looks like the flamingo parade scene from David Attenborough’s Planet Earth!

Do come and see our tulips on full parade while they are in bloom this Easter – the courtyard is the most colourful place to take tea in for miles around!

Places to visit to see tulips at large this spring include -

  • Chatsworth House, Derbyshire – open daily – Tulips are to be seen at large in the kitchen and cutting garden.
  • Pashley Manor, Wadhurst, East Sussex – 21ST April – 6th May – A mature, English country garden festooned with tulips at large.
  • Easton Walled Gardens, Grantham – open daily – A beautiful cut flower garden and meadows of roses (to be seen, later in the year).
  • Perch Hill, East Sussex – Open days on the 28th and 29th of April – see Sarah Raven's garden at peak tulip time, especially good for ideas of creating beautiful container displays.
  • The Avenue Gardens, Regents Park, London – open daily – My favourite London Park with bedding displays that are second to none, provided the squirrels haven’t eaten the bulbs!
  • Worton Organic Garden, northwest Oxford – open daily – Inspiring, delicious farm shop and garden.
  • Please see their individual websites for precise information on entry times and entrance fees, as some mentioned are private homes not public gardens.

Happy gardening and thanks for reading, Arthur Parkinson

10th April 2017