Cheiranthus cheiri

From F. Edward Hulme's 'Familiar Garden Flowers'
published in 1880

The Wallflower has been known in Britain since the Norman invasion and was reputedly brought to Britain by Norman stone masons. Several scented plants were known in Elizabethan times as 'Gilliflower' or 'Gillyflower' the name being a derivation of the French word 'girofle' for clove. Certainly as late as the 1950's Market Gardeners in Britain; including John's Grandfather; still referred to Wallflowers as 'Gillies'.

Because of their strong 'clove' scent which could mask the smells of unwashed humanity Wallflowers were widely used in nosegays, and it is from this use that it was given the name Cheiranthus or 'hand flower'.

From Medieval times both single and double forms of Gillyflower were well known, and became widely grown during the Industrial Revolution. During early Victorian times many named singles were grown and one of the most widely sought was 'The Negress' which was dark mulberry in colour, and now long since gone.

The double flowered forms were always in demand but because they have to be propagated from cuttings can easily be lost to cultivation. Today very few of the old varieties still in existance.

Whilst the old doubles have to be propagated from cuttings it is still possible to obtain seed which will produce a percentage of semi-double and double flowered plants. Though these plants lack the compactness and exceptional perfume of the old varieties they can be attractive and can be in most of the common Wallflower colours. Seed should be sown in July or August.

The ordinary single Wallflower is a fine example of the Plant Breeders art, from the 'muddy' yellowish-brown flowers of the early plants we now have the vibrant clear reds, yellows, and pinks so well loved by Parks Departments! Yet even today these blowsy vulgar plants have retained that all important scent.


This plant, sometimes referred to as 'Old Bloody Warrior', is reputedly the old double red described by John Parkinson in 'Paradisi in Sole' in 1629. It is very rare, but can still be found. The flower is a very dark dull red and has an exceptionally strong perfume.

Picture awaited

The plant bearing this name was discovered in a Shropshire garden by the Rev Harpur Crewe who was Rector of Drayton Beauchamp. There is no reason to suppose that this is anything other than the double yellow of medieval times. The plant is sturdy and compact making a woody, shrubby, plant which will grow for five or six years in a sheltered spot. The flowers, resembling small double Stocks, are very strongly scented. In 1967 Mrs Gladys Emmerson listed the plant simply as 'Double Yellow Gilliflower'.

Picture awaited

'Chevithorne' Syn : 'Harpur Crewe'

'Baden-Powell' Syn : 'Harpur Crewe'

This rich yellow flowered plant differs from 'Harpur Crewe' in that it has larger flowers and is larger and less compact in it's growth

Picture awaited

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