One of my favorite plants to use in Cottage gardens and New Country Gardens are Lupins. Or more excactly the perennial Lupinus Polyphyllus or Russel hybrids. Even without the spiky blooms , the palmated foliage and plants look like a small group of miniature palm trees. They are shortlived herbaceous perennial plants, with a lifespan of about 4 years. As other members of the legume family, they have small nodulated feeder roots caused by Bradyrhizobium soil bacterias on the roots, that makes the plants able to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere into ammonia, fertilizing the soil for other plants. It is very hard to divide the tap roots and get more plants, but they selfseed willingly. Only problem is that the seedlings may not turn out the same color as their parents. Color is very important in plant combinations when designing mixed borders. It is possible to grow some really pretty Lupins from seeds or buy these as young plants from nurseries. Some of these varieties are:
Lupinus polyphyllus 'La Chatelaine' -Blush pink and White Lupinus polyphyllus 'Fraülein'- pure White Lupinus polyphyllus 'Kronleuchter' - Light yellow Lupinus polyphyllus 'Mein Schloss' Red Lupinus polyphyllus 'Kastellan' - Blue/purple Lupinus regalis 'Chandelier' - Light yellow
The blue/purple lupins seems to be more hardy. The seedlings of these will eventually dominate groups of lupins growing wild. Since these are my favorite colours, and I want to make sure to get this colour, I each year seek out places with those wild lupins. This way I can get these plants for free! I look for good seedlings and dig these up, before they have gotten tap roots.
I bring a little water sprayer, and make sure the roots are moist, and place the seedlings in large ziplock bags. I also make sure to bring a little soil, from the place where they grew, to get some of the Bradyrhizobium soil bacterias. At home I pot the Lupin seedlings (in small pots, using potting soil and a little soil from the place I dug up the lupin seedling). I plant 3 seedlings in each pot, to get a dense plant that will produce more flower spires.
During the summer or early fall, I plant them where I want them and they will flower next year, growing about 2-3 feet tall the first year and 3-4 feet tall the second-fourth year.
After they have flowered in may-june, I cut the plants back and they will repeat flower a bit in late august-september. It is important to cut them back since it ensures a longer lifespan of the plants, if they are not allowed to selfseed. If we as gardeners choose to grow these plants, it is important not to allow these plants to become invasive, by allowing the plants to selfseed. In some countries, they are considered invasive, unwanted plants. But I think they are wonderful and beautiful garden plants, and both I, bees and butterflies, seems to be drawn to their spicy fragrance. I also like lupins as cut flowers, even if they only have a short vaselife of 3 days.