Before I get carried away with the peonies, I think I should just pause to appreciate the lupins.

This is ‘Thunderclouds’, grown from seed last year, and now flowering prodigiously.  I’ve never noticed before the wispy calyx that nestles the newly-opened flowers.  It is like a fur stole, soon to be carelessly dropped as the flowers relax.

Lupinus ‘Thunderclouds’

Lupins are part of the pea family, which you can see in the flower shape. As they open out they each get a hood, often in a contrasting colour. I love the curve on them, each one shaped like a kayak.  Look at the lovely veining on these, like the grain of wood:

Lupinus ‘Thunderclouds’

Here is Lupin ‘Thunderclouds’ in its massed glory.  I can’t help thinking of a city-scape when I see lots of spires of lupins together, hence the ‘Lupin-otropolis’ title.


And here again, just for good measure.

Lupinus ‘Thunderclouds’

Last year, the Star Lupin Award went to ‘Gallery Red’.  It is only just getting going this year, still looking like this:


So I will cheat and show you the pics from last year.  Here it is with the Euphorbias, the ones in the back row just peering over the heads of the others:

Lupinus ‘Gallery Red’ with Euphorbia amygdaloides var. roabbiae and Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’

And a little later on, going a little bendy and practising interpretive dance, with Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’:

Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ and Lupinus ‘Gallery Red’

Lupins are grown easily from seed.  Sow in early spring, prick out, pot on and wait until they are a foot high before planting out in early summer.  They will flower lightly in the first year and plentifully from then on.

I deadhead each flower as soon as the flowers at the top are fully open and it has started to produce furry seedpods at the base of the stem.  There comes a point in July when a lupin is looking distinctly raggedy.  This is not a lupin’s preferred state, and so I help it to retain its dignity by shearing off all the foliage to the ground.  It thanks me for my compassion by producing lovely fresh foliage, and sometimes a smaller flush of flowers.

Lupins are supposed to be fairly short-lived: my ‘Gallery Red’ is now five years’ old, and perhaps a little less full than last year, but that could be due to encroaching euphorbia.  Lupins apparently resent root disturbance, but I have successfully transplanted them, allowing for their long tap-root.  My mum always tells me that lupins are  slug-fodder, but I seem to have been blessed with slugs with a lupin intolerance.

Lupins are so-named because they grew in the wild on otherwise barren soil.  It was assumed that they were wolf-like, robbing the soil of nutrients.  In fact, being peas, they are nitrogen-fixing, enriching the soil.

Do you have a favourite lupin?  

My aim on this site is to share the sense of wonder I get from gardening and being outdoors. 

If you would like to join the joy, click on the ‘Follow’ button at the end of this post. You will receive an email each time I post a little pop of wonder. 

33 Comments Add yours

  1. Never looked that closely, but you have opened my eyes. Cheers!

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you. That’s a lovely comment, and exactly why I write this blog, I think!

  2. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I love Lupins, but must have over-watered mine as they seemed to rot away. They grow wild in the South Island of New Zealand. Have you seen them, Ali? Here’s a link in case you haven’t:

    1. pommepal says:

      Thanks for that link Jane I knew about the South Island lupine, but have never been there at the right time

  3. Cathy says:

    They don’t grow in our valley (I assume it is just too alkaline), but a few miles away we see them at the roadsides in profusion! Only blue ones, not quite as grand and full as your gorgeous garden varieties, but a beautiful sight nonetheless. I have tried growing them, but my slugs and snails are gourmets with a stomach for anything and everything, so I have never seen a single flower!

    1. Ali says:

      Oh that’s interesting re: acid or alkaline soils. We are on slightly acidic clay. The wild ones have a lovely simplicity. Any wild flower growing where it is meant to be is stunning, but lupins do have something about them that really appeals. Well lots of things – colour, form, foliage, natural grace and elegance!

  4. pommepal says:

    My dear dad loved his lupine and had big clumps of them in his small garden in Hull many years ago, consequently I love them too. But that is another I cannot grow here. Yours are stunning

    1. Ali says:

      Thank you. Am happy to share them with you.

  5. janesmudgeegarden says:

    Wonderful combination with the Lupin and salvia together- forgot to mention that in my earlier comment!

    1. Ali says:

      Isn’t it? I often forget what got me excited in blog posts and have to go back to add a comment! Especially when I’m halfway through a comment and the reader won’t let you scroll up to re-read!

  6. Claudette says:

    I love my lupins (even though I only ave 2 colours) – and have very fond memories of my childhood home having a drive lined with them. I treat them mean when they get scraggy, and they love it. I don’t seem to get slugs on mine either.

    1. Ali says:

      That drive sounds divine. That must be the secret. A certain devil-may-care attitude towards them.

      1. Claudette says:

        I still remember the smell of lupins on a warm, warm summers night at Christmas (I was maybe 5).

  7. Heyjude says:

    Your lupins are magnificent, especially Thunderclouds (what a perfect name) and the purple/orange combo sounds divine. I do wish you’d stop tempting me with all these gorgeous flowers Ali. I used to grow lupins when I lived in Doncaster – very sandy soil – and it was marvellous for a few years until it became infested in black fly (as did the (Philadelphus ) mock orange). Ended up having to pull them all out as nothing could get rid of them and they just looked unsightly.

    1. Ali says:

      They seem pretty tolerant if they do well on sandy soil too – I am on clay. That is a shame about the blackfly. Yucky little beasties.

  8. annpappas says:

    Those are beautiful – we have mostly the blue or yellow ones here.

  9. FlowerAlley says:

    Oh, no. Another plant for my “Want List.”

    1. Ali says:

      Sorry. I want everyone to share the guilt of my own plant lust!

      1. FlowerAlley says:

        So nice of you. I’ll start posting pictures of brownies. Ha

  10. Ooohh, I love the picture and comment about the flowers practicing interpretive dance! That is delightful. I love these literary touches which are in all of your posts, Ali. I feel like if I keep reading your blog, I will one day become the gardener I am meant to be! 🙂

    1. Ali says:

      You are a natural gardener!

  11. sgeoil says:

    Lovely post! I love Lupins. I have seen them growing in the wild in British Columbia and the Yukon. They were not as robust as yours! I wasn’t going to try Lupins again this year. I have tried unsuccessfully here in Saskatchewan, now, for 8 years. I get the odd one that will grow, but meagerly….But after looking at your wonderful Lupins, I am determined to try again!

    1. Ali says:

      They tend to look a little weedy in their first year, but then start to pucker up!

  12. bcparkison says:

    Your photo’s are wonderful. I have never grown Lupins but need to look into doing this and I am waiting for your Peonies to burst full steam ahead.

    1. Ali says:

      I can confirm that we have lift off!

  13. Ok, I just learned the new name of this marvelous flower and in awe from its shape and beauty. Thank you for sharing your post with us

    1. Ali says:

      It’s a pleasure. X

  14. plantbirdwoman says:

    The “State Flower” of Texas is a lupine, the bluebonnet. In early spring they transform our roadsides and fields into a sea of blue and people drive miles to have a look. They are definitely worth the effort. And so are yours. Gorgeous!

    1. Ali says:

      I’ve only recently learnt about ‘Blue bonnets’. They are beautiful.

  15. Emma Cownie says:

    I LOVE lupins but when I tried to grow some they all got eaten by something. I was very diasspointed.

    1. Ali says:

      That sounds like a little slug naughtiness.

      1. Emma Cownie says:

        We have hungry slugs round here!

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