Yes I do too grow delphiniums

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.

Tillie no blue delphiniumsSome people will say anything for attention.

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).


Delphinium trollifolium June

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.)

Delphinium trollifolium

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.)

Delphinium trollifolium close

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…)


Delphinium belladonnaDelphinium belladonna

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.


Delphinium consolida

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.

Delphinium consolida closeupDelpininium consolida up close, smiling.

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. 

The Floral Gift by Mary Chauncey 1846The Floral Gift by Mary Chauncey

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.

About linniew

Unpublished novelist seeks therapy in gardening. Westie assists.
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22 Responses to Yes I do too grow delphiniums

  1. Alberto says:

    I only grow d. consolida in my garden. Actually they just grow by themselves. They come in blues and pinks yours look a kind of purple, I like it.
    I wish I had some delphinium Tilliefolium seeds… (also called Seasoned Larkspur).

    • linniew says:

      Oh Alberto I would expect the D.tillefolium might have some negatives. It would certainly be invasive, likely weedy hard to grow and impossible to get rid of, with maybe gray blooms edged in brown and covered in aphids. Much better to have the consolida that reseeds itself in your beautiful gardens!

  2. Sheila Read says:

    Did a delphinium sneak into that photo of Tillie? You are making me jealous again, featuring flowers that don’t grow well in the South.

    • linniew says:

      I would love an outdoor gardenia– I wonder if you can grow those in your North Carolina garden? We had a little potted tangerine tree that just outgrew the greenhouse for wintering so I planted it against a south wall and it looks so much happier. But winter may be problematic. We always reach for the edges of what is possible.

  3. Aimee says:

    Okay, that Columbian Larkspur is a show-stopper. I too love blue, and that is an amazing shade! Everything – the shape of the flowers and the way the “blossomettes” (I think it’s a perfectly good word, by the way, and will likely steal it.) are places along the stem – gorgeous!

    I have steered clear of Delphiniums even though I ADORE them, but I’ve heard they were really high maintenance requiring a lot of care (which is not my style at all)….the Columbian Larkspurs make me want to reconsider…

  4. linniew says:

    Wildflowers of any plant (like the Columbian Larkspur and also the D. consolida) always seem hugely easier to me than the cultivars. Go for it! (You too can have blue blossomettes.)

  5. Cathy says:

    OK, you have to stop this. First I used to just chuckle. Then I used to giggle out loud. Now I am having to pad the bed before I can relax and read your posts. You are a hoot, but I share your love (and taste) in delphinium. All yellow plants used to be torched with a flame thrower here until my DH advised me that he loved yellow and orange blooms best of all. Out of love and deference to this wonderful man who works so hard in our garden, I built him his very own garden bed full of yellow flowers – I named it Siberia. (All of our beds have names.) Anything yellow that grows here is usually banished to Siberia. I really must find a yellow delphinium!

    Linnie, you are a hoot – you never fail to bring joy to my day. Has anyone ever told you that you should write a gardening book?

    • linniew says:

      Cathy I LOVE your Siberia– It was totally my turn to laugh! But you are right to give your DH his flowers too in your joint gardening effort. I plant a whole vegetable garden for Mr. O… Such a great idea to name the beds like that, I am inspired. As far as writing a gardening book, what would be more fun than that?

      • Cathy says:

        Re… As far as writing a gardening book, what would be more fun than that? …. Sex,maybe? Oh, I forgot. This is a family blog site.

        Definitely think about it. You have a natural ability to entertain and educate…. the best possible combination for this kind of writing! And I would call it “Women Who Run With Delphinium: The Book” so it won’t be confused with “Women Who Run With Delphinium: The Movie.” 😉

        • linniew says:

          Boy I asked for that “sex maybe” response didn’t I! I do so much appreciate your encouragement though Cathy– If I ever manage a gardening book it will be your fault! The movie concept is really funny, think of the Tillie cameos…

  6. Grace says:

    Boy that Tille. You’ve really got to watch her, don’t you? 🙂 I love your Delphiniums but I will admit that I can’t really see the resemblance to dolphins. Great post!

    • linniew says:

      Thanks Grace. Yes the dolphins elude me. I don’t know what the blooms look like but dolphins aren’t it.

      • Cathy says:

        That’s cuz neither of you have ever looked at them without your eyeglasses after 3 glasses of wine. Do I have to explain everything? Add a 4th glass of wine and even I look like a dolphin.

  7. linniew says:

    I will be checking those dang delphiniums after the fourth glass sans spectacles Cath. But I WON’T be looking in the mirror.

  8. kininvie says:

    Um….what is cottonseed meal? Since we don’t grow cotton in Scotland, I guess we don’t have the meal either. We do grow wool though. Would that do? If not, what?

    • linniew says:

      No cotton around here either kininvie… but close enough I guess that the meal is in the farm store. I just read that linseed meal or soybean meal can be substituted in the recipe– maybe you will find bags of one of those available? (I like wool for sweaters mostly.)

  9. I love delphiniums but can’t grow them in the too hot mid-Atlantic US. The flower police say that the third delphinium is purple and who are you trying to kid.

    • Greggo says:

      My sister grew dolphins in wyoming. They just kind of followed you as you skied down the slope. She especially liked flipper, a greyish aqua colored variety that used to bob up and down in the wind. Tried to grow them in Kansas but the airs too humid. Shucks.

    • linniew says:

      Carolyn you are right, it is purple [covers face with hands]. My garden palette (whoa that sounds very Martha) includes blues (AND purples) and pinks that aren’t garish and peach and whites and creams. Now I must admit there are a few little yellow things, like meadowfoam and the occasional pansy. But as a blue-seeker it is VERY painful to be apprehended in purple-ness…

  10. linniew says:

    Greggo is singularly cryptic, but the “greyish aqua” might be important.

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