This year has been the year of the wallflower in our front garden. I've grown a few each year over the past four or five years, but this year I have many, many more. And, I'm afraid, I haven't gone subtle. Flame red and orange have set the garden ablaze during one of the dullest, coolest springs I can remember. Rather clashing with the forget-me-nots that self seed throughout the garden, but I can forgive them that.
A few years ago, as an experiment, I left some wallflowers in the back garden after they had flowered. Despite their classification as a biennial, they are more than happy to return year after year - four years so far, in this case. What they aren't, is prolifically floriferous after the first year. Mine are somewhat shy to flower, though much of this bashfulness is not due to their age but to a rather concerted effort by the child of the household to decapitate, stumble over and kick balls into them. I doubt I'd fare too well if I were subjected to such abuse.
Why do I grow them? It's easy to love this sensuous kin of the cabbage. Love of their velvet petals, so soft to the touch of a child. Love of their scent - sweet, with a touch of earthiness. Love of their vibrant colours, alive with detail.
But more than that. Love of the memories they hold for me. When I was a child, my granddad used to grow them from seed. When autumn came, he would dig some up, wrap them in damp newspaper, and give them to my mum for her to plant in our garden. Wallflowers should be sold as transplants in damp newspaper - I feel a pang of disappointment when I buy them online and know that they won't come wrapped up in soggy old news stories, or wrapped in the love of a father for his daughter and a grandfather for his granddaughter.
And so, why do I grow wallflowers? Memories and love.