The Boldness of Wallflowers

wallflowers (Erysimum 'If you look up wallflower in Webster’s dictionary, you will find this definition: “A person who from shyness or unpopularity remains on the sidelines of a social activity (as a dance).”
It turns out that wallflowers, in a gardener’s lexicon, have been ironically named since they are anything but shy, making quite a statement among those perennials that flower in a most uninhibited and ostentatious manner.
If they do not actually dance, wallflowers bloom practically without interruption until they die, metabolically exhausted by their insistence on pushing out flowers nonstop.
The most stunning wallflower is a variety known as Erysimum linifolium ‘Bowles Mauve.’ The color of its flower is somewhere in the lilac to lavender-pink spectrum, and it can grow in sunny to lightly shaded exposures. It forms a symmetrical mound with nothing but flowers visible when it blooms full throttle in the spring, and then persists for a few years, flowering on and off in all seasons.
English wallflowers (Erysimum cheiri) appear in yellow, orange, red or burgundy and are mildly fragrant. Strictly speaking, they are also perennials but, in hot summer Valley gardens, they look their best for only one growing season. Wallflowers have a modest stature of about 2 feet and combine well with other brightly flowered perennials such as Marguerite daisies and the deep-purple flowered, nearly black-leafed and pleasantly scented heliotrope (Heliotropium arborescens ‘Black Beauty’).
A plant worth combining with wallflowers, Marguerites and heliotropes is the strawflower (Helichrysum bracteatum). Available in pink, dark pink, red, salmon, gold, yellow and white, strawflowers are daisies that have an almost artificial look due to their papery, strawlike consistency.
To keep them for everlasting bouquets, detach strawflowers from the stem when they have just begun to open. Hang them upside down in a protected, dark, airy location. Strawflowers open fully as they dry and can last for a year or more without losing their color.
Several outstanding, long-blooming selections for the spring garden belong to the snapdragon family. Toadflax or baby snapdragon (Linaria) is the most charming of the bunch, occurring in solid or bicolor varieties of pink, rose, mauve, red, burgundy and gold.
Nemesia, also multicolored, rivals toadflax for charm, but tends to disappear when summer comes. Finally, monkey flowers (Mimulus) come in both annual and perennial forms and, as the years pass, are available in an increasingly wide spectrum of colors.
Following a recent column on Mycorrhizae, the fungi that live in beneficial symbiosis with plant roots, I had the opportunity to speak with John Keller, research director of Monrovia Growers.
Monrovia produces millions of container plants each year, and Mycorrhizae are added to the nursery’s soil mixes. Keller said that Mycorrhizae do not necessarily make plants grow larger, but rather, they are a kind of insurance policy since there is no telling what kind of soil will be provided for plants after they leave the nursery.
In poor soil, Mycorrhizae could be the difference between a plant succumbing to stress and its survival since Mycorrhizae assist roots in absorption of water and minerals. A study at Texas A&M also demonstrated that Mycorrhizae improve the efficiency of mineral uptake by roots. In this regard, it is both economically and environmentally sensible to use Mycorrhizae in soil mixes since, by doing so, less fertilizer will be leached through the container soil.

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