What wonderful sunny weather we're having and the flowers bursting open so fast I can't keep up!
In the vegetable garden, inside the pigeon proof pen, the brassicas are quickly running to seed but it's worth pausing and admiring the flowers before uprooting them to make room for wigwams of peas.
In fact the provide a valuable food source for insects and I could leave some to set seed to save for sowing for a fresh crop of Kale.
#026 Brassica oleracea
Kale var. Ragged Jack
This is probably the easiest of Kales to grow, sown in late Spring last year. There were leaves to pick through the late summer, then it looks a bit forlorn in Winter before erupting with tender new shoots in early spring.
With the warmer temperatures and longer days the flower spikes suddenly shoot up almost over night!
Put aside thoughts of a cabbage gone to seed and look at the elegant flower spike, the bronze stalks, pale blue-green buds and pretty four-petalled flowers.
Four petals – that's what you have to look for to find the Cabbage cousins, here's a British country cousin . . .
#027 Alliaria petiolata
Garlic Mustard or Jack-by-the-hedge
Please don't dismiss this as a weed and pull it up, there are very good reasons to allow it to stay in the flower borders . . .
1: it is edible, it tastes of garlic (Alliaria means 'like alliums') and mustard and peps up a ham sandwich very nicely.
2: it is the food plant of the Orange Tip Butterflies' caterpillars.
3: it has zingy bright olive/lime green leaves that perfectly set off Forget-me-nots and Bluebells!
4: if you find you have too much of a good thing, Garlic Mustard is very easy to pulls up.
#028 Lunaria annua
Honesty is a biennial, the little plants grow one year then flower, make those pretty silver moon-like (Lunaria = moon-like) seed pods and die the next year.
I just let the seeds scatter and plants find their favoured places to grow – this one is growing almost in a large Lupin plant, it's happy and is putting on a glorious display of purple flowers.
Up close you can see Honesty flowers are exactly like the Kale flowers except for being bright purple instead of yellow.
#029 Erysimum cheiri
More biennial brassicas, I bought these as bedding plants last Autumn but I could easily have grown them from seed if I'd remembered to sow them and grow them just like the Kale plants. The small plants are sold either in containers or bare rooted to plant out into containers or flower beds in Autumn. It feels like a bit of a palava until in early April when they start to flower . . . just like a cabbage running to seed but in a good way.
The colours are rich and intense – yellows, golds, orange, russet, red, crimson and burgundy. The four petals are large, soft and velvety in appearance, but it is the fragrance that sets these cabbage-cousins apart – a rich warm spicy 'ginger biscuits' perfume that fills the air around them. I've planted some of the Wallflowers in containers with violas and tulips outside our kitchen door where the perfume can be enjoyed as we come and go.
Erysimum is from a greek word meaning to help/save because the Wallflowers were used in medicines. They were also once a popular cut flower, especially for fragrant posies – cheir = hand and anthos = flower.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to fill the flowerbeds with Wallflowers?! I'm making a note to sow lots in June!