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Jumping for Lupins

by Malachy - Horticulturist CountryLife Dungarvan | May 27, 2016
Jumping for Lupins

Gardeners love flowers. That is no surprise at all really. And because we love bright long lasting flowers so much many gardeners gravitate towards cottage garden flowers because by their nature they are brightly coloured and in many instances the flowers last right throughout the summer and in to autumn.

Around this time every year customers seem to flock to the CountryLife garden centre in search of cottage style plants to add to their garden. In recent years (and this year seems to be no exception) lupins have been very popular. I think this comes down to the wide range of colours they are available in and the fact the flowers are somewhat structural which can make a nice addition to a flowerbed.

Lupin Gallery RedLupins are part of the legume family which you can notice when you look at the shape of the flowers which resemble sweet pea. This family connection is more evident however when you look at the seed pods that form when the flowers finish blooming. They resemble pea or bean pods. And from the bit of reading I have done on lupins over the past few days I discovered that at one stage people did use lupin seeds as a form of food. But I think I’ll just stick to collecting lupin seeds for propagation and not for eating!

Originally lupin plants were very tall and if there was any wind the flower stalks would snap. Luckily with the wonders of plant breeding and the introduction of new hybrid varieties this is not the case any more. Most modern lupins are more compact and the flower stalks are stronger which means wind does not have as much of an impact as it once did.

The introduction of new hybrid plants over the last number of years has also meant there are many more colours to choose from. Not only in terms of single flower colours but you can now get some fantastic dual colour species which I think look extremely well in a garden. Generally the colours are contrasting ones so they standout perfectly in a border in my eyes. The flowers are so bright they are great at attracting bees to the garden which is a great bonus to having the flowers in your garden.

Manhattan LightsAt the moment in the garden centre we have a wide range of colours on sale for anyone looking to add lupins to their own garden. Manhattan Lights is a very interesting lupin in terms of its flowers. As you can see from the picture the purple and yellow really stand out. ‘Governor’ has always been a popular choice with gardeners for its brilliant dusty blue flowers. Anyone looking for a more dramatic flower for their garden ‘Gallery Red’ is a fantastic variety to consider with its deep red flowers.

To get the best from your lupins plant them in full sun and in good free draining soil. They don’t like their roots kept in water so if your soil is prone to retaining lots of water it might be a good idea to work some grit or gravel through it before planting.

Slugs and snails can pose a problem for lupins, especially with young plants, so it is best to keep your weapon of choice on hand to keep the slugs and snails at bay. Aphids can be attracted to the flowers in the height of summer but can again be easily treated.

As summer progresses and the flowers start to fade it is best to cut them off to encourage a second flush of flowers. In my own garden as autumn starts to approach I like to leave some flowers go to seed so that I can collect them and store them until next spring to be planted. 

Written by Malachy

Here to help! - remember if you have any questions feel free to pop into one of our garden centres or you can contact us on our Facebook and Twitter pages and email us at: hello@countrylife.ie

Malachy's Bio 
I have been gardening since I was 5 years old when my mother gave me a part of our garden as my own. I have studied horticulture in the National Botanical Gardens in Glasnevin and was a winner in the young horticulturist of the year competition. I have worked in Several plant nurseries and garden centers such as Mount Congreve in Co. Waterford. My special interests are plant propagation and Cacti!

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