Don’t underestimate wallflowers

It has been a chilly Spring here in England and all those long-awaited bulbs arrived late but many of them flowered together and lasted far longer than usual. The same was true of the tree blossoms….this year my cherry tree was better than ever and I also had apple blossom for the first time on my new cooking apple espalier and dwarf eating apple tree.

There comes a time though, every year, when the Spring flowers fade and the Summer flowers are still on their way.

This, for me, is when the wallflower comes into its own.

I have now dead-headed the last of my late daffodils and all of my tulips and, suddenly, the garden is dominated by the enjoyably different shades of the wallflowers that I planted way back in October with that optimism about the future which is one of the pleasures of gardening. Then it was easier to tell that wallflowers are part of the brassica family, closely related to the cabbage and Brussells sprout.

They stood there, uncomplaining, through rain, wind, snow and frost and, having almost forgotten about them, I am ready now for those rusty tones of red, purple, yellow and brown that are the wallflowers special gift at this time of year. There is a quiet serenity about them I think because usually they have already started to flower before you notice them but they wait patiently until their flashier companions have left the stage and then, there they are, smiling, reassuring you that all is not lost and that seasons always move onwards with no reasons for regret.

They are called wallflowers because the wild varieties, native to Southern Europe, often cling to the most inhospitable walls finding just enough nutrition to survive in the brick mortar. This habit of clinging to the wall is why we use the term wallflower to describe those shy people who stand on the edges of the room at dances whilst their more extrovert friends are showing off on the dance floor.

Like my garden plants, I often think that shy friends are the ones I like best. Too easily underestimated, they are usually there when you need them, confident even if shy, introverted but thoughtful. Like the wallflowers in my garden too, often they are there offering reassurance and comfort when my more extrovert friends have moved on to the next party.

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