In some parts of New Zealand there are large tracts of Russell lupins which grow by the roadsides. Their combinations of blues and pinks are a tourist attraction, and the subject of many bus stops for photographs.
I first introduced lupins into the Moosey garden by collecting seeds by the road near Arthurs Pass. From these beginnings I enjoyed a mixture of colours, mainly violets and pinks.
Lupins in my garden are treated both as short-lived perennials and flowers needing replacement, being re-sown annually from seed which they always generously provide. I find the seeds easy to germinate, and seedlings don't seem to mind being transplanted. If any flower stalks get blown down in the wind they get popped into a house vase to look beautiful inside.
Ecologically speaking, these flowers are beautiful nuisances, and they spread along the braided river waterways in the South Island of New Zealand. I try to deadhead my lupins and scatter their seeds where I want them to grow, keeping them away from the water race.
Lupins are perennials, but plants do lose vigour, and my method of seed disposal is an attempt to guarantee new stock. I particularly love the blue, purple and pink tones.
During a subtle colour phase (all gardeners seem to go through these) I proudly bought some pale lemon coloured plants from a nursery. That patch, planted by Middle Path, disappeared after its first flowering year, and I lived in hope that new pale lemon seedlings would emerge - they didn't. So I learnt that spending money on lupin plants was a bit of a waste. Better to create my own!
Pink Rhododendron and Blue Lupins
To increase my collection I also take cuttings of new shoots in spring, pot them up, then wait for them to flower. This is a most successful way to propagate my favourite lupin colours.
Five Favourite Lupins
Russell lupin seeds are available at all New Zealand nurseries, and in seed catalogues. So can I grow them guilt-free? No, it seems. Loosely quoting from an official government document, here are two of the 'ways in which New Zealand gardeners can help halt the spread of Russell lupins into valuable braided riverbed ecosystems and waterways'...
- Refrain from buying or planting Russell lupin seed or plants.
- Avoid picking or transporting lupin seed heads between places.
Lupins by the Water
I've always wondered why they're called them Russell Lupins. I used to think that a Mr or Mrs Russell was the person who scattered the original seeds along the southern highways. But no - Mr Russell was the breeder, an Englishman who had an allotment in York. So yet again an introduced plant is causing trouble in the local ecosystem. Hmm...