A Love of Lupins

They are the flower that give a kick to a border. These rocket like flowers spiraling up into in the late spring sun are a bee favourite but why don't more of us grow them?

Sadly over the last decade this wonderful flower has fallen by the wayside. The wet summers have led to a spurt of the fungal disease lupin anthracnose. This disease leads to brown spots on foliage, wet orange spores on the undersides of the leaves and a distortion of the stems in a corkscrew effect. It is always advisable to burn severely affected plants. The problems that have come around through this fungal disease is often down to close planting. Lupins love air around them and the more you pack them in, the more likely you will create great conditions for the fungus. Dense planting will do this as will watering plants from above, splashing foliage rather than watering the soil around the base of the plant. You should never water plants this way and that is why the garden hose is banned on our plot, if you want to use a hose, invest in a seep hose or better still, use a watering can and direct the rose at the bottom of the plant. Water the soil not the foliage. It is akin to you being thirsty and me chucking a bucket of water in your face, it is a shock, cold and more importantly still leaves you thirsty and sneezing.

Though there is no fungicide for lupin anthracnose, and frankly we wouldn't recommend one as we plant ours in our vegetable patch, there are some common sense rules for the planting of lupins. We always sow new stock every two years, most lupins sowed in early spring will flower in the same year and all you will need to do is give them a good start by planting them around one foot apart and weaving hazel over the top to allow the flowers to grow through. This will give them support, you can do this with a number of products available on the market or adopt a Heath Robinson construction of a cat's cradle in string supported by short bamboo canes, which will vanish under the foliage.

You can't help but love lupins, bees love them and they bring a splash of bright, gaudy grace to the spring and summer border. This brings us to the problem that some growers have with lupins, they are gaudy, they are bright, they do refuse to bend and be blousy, but they are soft, graceful and in large quantities can have a startling effect on the garden and gardener. We could never grow them at Drovers and when we sowed them here, we had 100% germination success. They love the soil at Pig Row and we love lupins.