COMMON NAME: wallflower
SPECIES: C. allioni, C. cheiri
BLOOMS: late spring-summer
DESCRIPTION: Wallflowers come in lovely shades of orange, apricot, and yellow. Plants grow to a height of 14 to 18 inches. Numerous flowers occur at the ends of spikes. Leaves are long and narrow.
CULTIVATION: Wallflower plants cannot tolerate extreme heat and humidity. Given a sunny, airy spot in a mild climate, though, wallflower produce bright blossoms over a long period, if it is watered regularly. The plants grow easily from seed, which should be sown directly in the flowering site in spring. Blossoms often come the first year from seed.
The following legend tells us of the origin of wallflower: The daughter of a Scottish lord fell in love with the son of an enemy border chieftain The fathers, of course, took offense at the match, and the lord betrothed his daughter to a prince of his choosing and locked her up in a tower until the wedding was to take place. The chieftain’s son, posing as a minstrel, sang at the foot of the tower, suggesting that she throw down a rope ladder and run away with him. The girl threw him a blossom of wallflower to indicate she understood and then began to climb down to her lover. Tragically, she slipped and fell to her death. The heartbroken young man adopted the wallflower as his emblem and wandered over the countryside singing of his beloved.
Because of this legend, wallflower is a symbol of faithfulness in adversity, according to the Victorian language of flowers. During the Middle Ages, troubadours and minstrels wore bunches of wallflower blossoms as a sign of good luck.
The genus name is from two Greek words meaning “hand” and “flower” and refers to the custom of carrying these sweet-scented flowers as a bouquet to ward off the evil odors resulting from poor sanitation practices of the past. They were especially popular during spring festivals.
The French call it giroflee violier because it has the same sweet scent as does the carnation, often called gilloflower.
The common name comes from the growth habit of some species, which prefer to climb stone walls or fences.
Wallflower has also been called blood drops of Christ, for the deep red wallflower was supposed to have grown under the cross. Also known as bloody warrior, wallflower was planted outside the cottage gate as protection against invaders.
Wallflower has always been valued as a medicine. Water of the distilled flowers, drunk twice a day for three to four weeks, was thought to make a woman fruitful. It has been used for uterine and liver disorders, to treat enlarged glands, and to purify the blood. Other remedies made from wallflowers have been used to ease pain during childbirth, treat palsy, and clear up cataracts. According to the doctrine of signatures, the yellow wallflower was used to treat jaundice. Scientists have discovered substances within the seeds, roots, and leaves that affect the heart, and for this reason it is not recommended for home remedy.
The plant was originally found growing in the Aegean Islands.