Posts Tagged ‘Cheiranthus x marshallii’

Biennial or short-lived perennial. Zone 2. Brassicaceae. Syn. Cheiranthus x marshallii. Despite the common name, Siberian Wallflower is most accurately described as originating in England. It was a deliberate cross made by John Marshall in 1846 between Erysimum perofskianum, originally native to the Middle East, in specific Persia, and E. decumbens, from northern Spain, the Pyrenees and the southwestern Alps.

The Brassica Family makes up for its generally utilitarian foliage – think of the humble cabbage, and kale, and all of the mustards, not to mention the inconspicuous foliage of our cottage garden stalwarts such as Dame’s Rocket (Hesperis) and Stocks (Matthiola) – by frequently having the sweetest scented of flowers. The Wallflowers surpass all of their relatives in this characteristic, being famously planted in combination with less-fragrant spring bulbs such as tulips, both for the contrasting beauty of their velvety flowers and for their outpouring of honey-rich, spicy fragrance.

Sadly, the “traditional” English wallflowers, Cheiranthus/Erysimum cheiri, with their large blooms in shades of antique red and rich brown, copper, cream and crimson are not reliably hardy in our Canadian climate, unless one happens to live in gentler-wintered regions such as B.C.’s lower mainland. The Siberian Wallflower happily steps in to fulfill the role of its more delicate cousin for us Northerners, and it does so in a most eye-catching and deliciously fragrant way.

Siberian Wallflower is technically a biennial, but I have had it flower profusely in its first year from early-sown seed. From fast-growing clumps of strap-shaped foliage sprouted in early March, an abundance of bud clusters appear in May, which quickly pop open in an endless succession of very fragrant, absolutely neon-bright orange blooms well into mid-summer.

The plants elongate and get a bit weedy looking as summer advances, but it is best to ignore this and leave at least a few plants to mature their seeds, because this pretty flower is quite happy to establish itself as a self-sowing permanent resident in the garden. It naturalizes quite nicely; we’ve seen it used among other wildflowers as a bank erosion planting, as well as in more traditional plantings.

Despite the self-sowing trait, it is considered non-invasive; seedlings are shallow rooted and very easy to eliminate, but are generally welcome wherever they appear, or you can clip the plants back after blooming.

Siberian Wallflower is a fairly modest thing, size-wise, growing about a foot or so tall. It is easy to tuck in here and there where its vibrant colour will accent other spring and early summer flowers, and it harmonizes particularly beautifully with its fellow biennial Forget-Me-Not (Myosotis), the warm orange and cool sky blue proving the artistic theory of contrasting colours to be a Very Good Thing in the garden as well as on the canvas.

Siberian Wallflower is occasionally offered in a bright yellow variation, ‘Citrona Yellow’, and in a number of other named strains in various degrees of yellow, gold and orange.

Full sun is preferred, and any sort of soil. Thrives with average fertility and watering care, and is quite drought tolerant once established.

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