There is a rumor that I don’t actually grow delphiniums in my garden. This is blatant misinformation spread around by Fox News or maybe Tillie. In truth I grow three sorts of delphiniums.
First I must digress a tiny bit to address my color preferences.
Any other color of delphinium is shot by guards at the entrance to my garden (metaphorically speaking of course).
Here is Delphinium trolliifolium (also called Columbian Larkspur), a native Oregon perennnial, awesome cool. I grow it in three beds and would have more if I could figure out how to propagate it from seed. (Maybe it will be like my bran muffin recipe and someday I will perfect it.)
This native is the first delphinium to bloom in my gardens in spring, and actually these photos are from about a week ago when it was in its prime just like Miss Brodie. (The camera felt a flash was in order here, and it changed the blue. Smarty-pants camera.)
The Columbian Larkspur has lovely deep blue blooms with a couple little white petals in the center, and these blue and white blossomettes (there must be another word) are spaced airily up the length of the stem, as opposed to all bunched up tightly and heavily like some cultivated varieties are. (I have of course grown those dense kinds in the past –they can be so pretty– but for me they are too tall and fall over, or I stake them and then just the tops fall over, especially in the rain. It’s some kind of design/weight/ballast/staking problem…)
Now this next type of delphinium is clearly a close relative of the native one. I believe it is called Delphinium belladonna, but I don’t have the seed packet. It is a little more delicate in its growth and all blue. (A flower really can’t have too much blue.) It comes in two shades of blue, but I grow the darker one.
In truth ALL of these tall plants need a little support, in the form of twiggy limbs or nearby shrubs or a little ring of wire or someone who owes you a favor and will stand there and hold them up… But these open growing ones can mingle pretty well in any crowded bed arrangement (and they do well at parties).
The Plant Goddess grows Delphinium belladonna from seeds and gives me starts because as I said I am delphinium-propagation-challenged.
Except I can grow this next type like crazy, but it’s an annual.
Here is Delphinium consolida with its small blooms that lean toward purple, and foliage that is cute and ferny like dill. It stands maybe 30 or more inches tall and is a great filler between other plants. It is a wildflower and as far as I can see has no bad habits like leaving its socks around or falling over too much.
As I said this is an annual, and it’s a snap even for me to get it to germinate and grow in the greenhouse. The seed can be collected in the fall so you just buy it once (Chiltern Seeds sells it, among others). In my garden it doesn’t volunteer at all so I always start some in the greenhouse.
As far as neighborhoods go, these wildflowers seem to like their sun in the morning more than in the hot afternoons not that we have had any of those yet here in western Oregon. (Rain again tomorrow.) They get fussy if they aren’t kept watered.
A word about the name: I am advised by Professor Internet that the name comes from Greek meaning “dolphin” because the blooms look like dolphins. Right.
I prefer my 1846 language of flowers book where the delphinium is said to represent “Levity.” (I do think dolphins are wonderful but I don’t need them in my garden nearly so much as I need levity.)
I plant delphiniums like I plant most everything, with this organic fertilizer mix:
4 parts cottonseed meal
1/2 part lime
1/2 part bone meal or phosphate rock
1/2 part kelp meal
I mix up a couple gallons of this and keep it around the greenhouse for tossing into planting holes. (I use the phosphate rock because if I use bone meal Max digs it up and tries to eat it.)
OK, really must go now, I think I hear Tillie in the liquor cabinet.