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Plant of the Week

October 24, 1987|ROBERT SMAUS

Cheiranthus linifolius 'E.H. Bowles'

Bowles' Mauve Wallflower

Shrubby, gray-leaved perennial to three feet

Some plants just burst on the garden scene, and such is the case with a wallflower being called Bowles' Mauve. It's sudden popularity with garden designers is easy to understand--it grows fast, has the tidiest of gray foliage and flowers all the time.

Now this wallflower is not like the wallflowers that are so popular in England. This one is a little bush and the others are grown as bedding plants. Botanically, it gets bounced back and forth between two genera, in one book being a Cheiranthus and in another a Erysimum . The specific name, linifolius , refers to the narrow leaves that are a fine blue-gray.

Bowles' Mauve is remarkably tidy and symmetrical and deserves a special spot in the garden. The plant grows to about two feet tall in six months and then slowly to three feet. Though this cultivar obviously originated in England (E.H. Bowles being a legendary English nurseryman), it is native to Spain and looks completely at home in a California garden, where it, incidentally, can get by on little water.

The flowers are small and in clusters at the end of the branches and they are a purplish-mauve that gets along well with many other colors, from orange to pink. The flowers keep opening on branches, which keep making room at the end, and the flowering stem may get so long that cutting it off becomes necessary.

Referring to these lengthening stems, Beth Chatto, in "The Dry Garden," says: "In fact, it will not stop, and when I can bring myself to do it, I like to shear off the remaining burden from the exhausted plant in July so it can gather strength to produce a show for the autumn."

In California, this might better be done in late fall, so it can flower in winter as well.

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