The British Lupin Fact File
LATIN NAME: Lupinus polyphullus
COMMON NAME: Lupin
AVAILABILITY: May to July depending on the season
COLOUR RANGE: White, pink, yellow, orange, red, purple, bi-coloured
BEST BUYING DAYS AT New Covent Garden Flower Market: Monday and Thursday
The Origins of Lupins
Lupins are members of the legume family, which come from the Mediterranean and predominantly from the Americas.
The word lupin comes from ‘lupine’ meaning wolf-like. Clearly lupin flowers don’t look anything like wolves (whereas the snapdragon obviously looks like a dragon?).
However the story goes that, many centuries ago, lupin plants were thought to ravage the soil of nutrients.
In fact, the opposite is true: lupins - like all good legumes - fix nitrogen in the soil.
References to the lupin in the language of flowers suggest the meanings of ‘always happy’, ‘voraciousness’, which make it the perfect focus flower for florist Jay Archer.
Read her Profile for British Flowers Week here.
Lupins as a cut flower
Lupins have dramatic spire-shaped flowers made up of hundreds of pea-like flowerheads.
The stems bend and twist to follow the light, and florists love the non-conformity of British lupins, where wavy stems are part of the charm.
“I love that British flowers are not perfect,” says Jay Archer. “They are much more real. You can see how they have grown.”
There is a lupin for every conceivable colour scheme. Ornamental lupins have been bred in white, cream, yellow, blush to deep pink, orange, red, purple, blue and also bi-coloured. To list them is practically to recite the colours of the rainbow.
The stems can be up to a metre tall, making for spectacular vase arrangements and towering urn designs.
Cut down, lupins are equally striking in a full hand-tie with their attractive palmate foliage.
The lupin season is normally short but sweet, running from May to July, allowing for the vagaries of the British weather, of course.
When you’re buying your lupins, you should be looking for strong, firm stems with the flowerheads fresh and intact.
All parts cause severe discomfort if ingested, so no nibbling, please.
So, here are our classic tips for ensuring that all your British flowers last as long as possible:
- ensure that your vase is scrupulously clean so that there are no bacteria lurking around
- remove any leaves that would be below the water line to stop any rot
- trim the flower stems to the preferred length
- arrange the stems in your clean vase filled with fresh water mixed with the flower food provided
- keep your flowers out of direct sunlight, away from radiators, drafts and even from your fruit bowl (ethylene shortens vase life)
- trim the stems and top up the vase every day
WHERE TO BUY
The peak season for British lupins is May to July, depending on the weather, of course. During this period, the main deliveries come fresh into the Flower Market from the growers for Monday and Thursday morning trading.
Key wholesalers of British lupins include:
If you have any top tips on British lupins, we would love to hear from you. Simply write your comments in the box below.