Growing lupins

Posted: Monday 18 June 2012
by James Alexander-Sinclair

The lupin (Lupinus) is a much loved classic English cottage garden flower: not very long lived but pretty easy to grow nonetheless.

David Hurrion in front of lupins

Last week, like many of you, I was at Gardeners’ World Live, avoiding the showers while listening to the golden words of Adam Pasco (sainted Editor of Gardeners’ World Magazine) and the distinguished gardening guru, David Hurrion (Horticultural Editor of Gardeners' World Magazine).

At one point I had a few spare minutes, and started to think about lupins. My mind edged in that direction for two reasons: firstly because I saw some rather handsome specimens, royally purple examples like those used in the planting Rachel de Thame did for the Queen’s Jubilee Barge. Secondly, because there were some very fine yellow ones, at Easton Walled Gardens earlier in the week.

The lupin (Lupinus) is a much-loved classic English cottage garden flower: not very long lived but pretty easy to grow nonetheless. In New Zealand they grow wild in great swathes across rolling hillsides. Over here I cannot promise you such abundance, just restrained elegance.

Lupins can be grown from seed sown in spring – it’s best to soak the seeds in water for 24 hours before sowing. Harden them off before planting them out in May, ideally in a sunny spot, but a little shade is perfectly acceptable. Watch out for aphids and cut the flower spikes back soon after flowering, in order to encourage a second flush at the end of the summer. After a few years the clumps will be big enough to divide with a sharp spade.

There are white ones, yellow ones, purple ones, blackcurranty ones ... I could go on, but I won’t. You are spoilt for choice so please, grow some lupins.

The picture above shows the aforementioned Mr Hurrion, posing with Rachel’s royal lupins.

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Talkback: Growing lupins
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tosca1 19/06/2012 at 15:25

Are they attractive to pollinators and other wildlife?

sotongeoff 19/06/2012 at 15:34

The bees love 'em

MuddyFork 19/06/2012 at 16:29

so do slugs and snails

hollie hock 19/06/2012 at 21:37

Agree with both of the above, but I love seeing the bees on them

Robot 20/06/2012 at 11:06

I little trick I do to prolong the flowering time is when seed pods start to form but there's still lots of flower buds to open, I hold the top of the flower gently and rub the seedpods off.  As most plants' aim in life is to reproduce, when it has made seeds then it decides it doesn't need to flower anymore, so by rubbing off the seeds I trick it into thinking it hasn't done its job.  I get loads more flowers then.  The end of the stalk looks a bit funny eventually (photo below) but it's worth it for more flowers.  When I think the last flower spike comes along I let the pods stay on and use the seeds to make more plants and I always get some good colour combinations.  


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