Monday, June 12, 2006

June is for Delphiniums ... Part I

Delphiniums are a bit of a passion for me. But as with all great passions, there often also comes a great deal of work, frustration and even heartbreak. Such is my long-standing relationship with delphiniums.

Anyone who has grown these prized beauties knows they're fickle, and even with the most attentive care, they often turn up their toes in the garden, and simply pack up and don't return the following year. Our climate is particularly challenging for them, due to our brutally hot, humid and dry summers, which can do them in in no time. It's the Canadians and those who live in the Pacific Northwest who have the best luck growing great groves of these statuesque beauties. Still, there has emerged a new strain of them, Delphinium elatum, commonly found in garden centers as "Magic Fountains," which is more tolerant of the heat and dry. Though they don't achieve the often 6 foot plus size of the older "Pacific Giants" strain, they do seem to fare better in our neck of the woods.

Now to the bad part of the relationship. Up until this year, I had been dutifully replacing the occasional one that died out over the winter and maintaining the few plantings I had done in previous years. My most successful was out back by our dilapidated shed where I had originally started them from seeds carefully tended (oh, about 5 years ago or so). Now, this last summer/fall/winter period was apparently very harsh to the delphs around here, since all of ours did not return this spring ... except for a very courageous (and my favorite, I must add) one from my original seed planting that I just discovered last week when doing some weeding. I've heard from other gardeners that theirs had all died out last year as well, so I think it was the brutally harsh, dry and very weedy summer we had last year (hello, global warming!). I'm persevering though, because we have this dogged obsession about certain plants we have to have in the garden ... Delphiniums, Foxglove, Lupines ... those finicky plants that have to have things just their way to reward us on a regular basis. So, we keep planting more seed, more plants and trying different spots where we think they may thrive ... thus the fickle nature of certain flowers.

In a way, it's like trying to please a partner who doesn't quite communicate his or her desires clearly ... though we can know in a general sense what they want, we can't be mind readers. Such is my ongoing struggle with delphiniums. Do I do the year round mulch recommended by some? Should I feed them more? I already cut them way back after initial bloom to promote fall blooming ... Should I let them produce seed or not? But since it is an ongoing long-term commitment, I keep trying to figure out the magic key. At this point, I'm of the camp that you just re-plant more each year and try to get a successful stand going. Safety in numbers, as it were. I planted 21 new ones this year, and you'll be seeing them as the days and weeks progress. And I'll give some more detailed information on their history and cultivation needs.

There will be new pictures very soon, as several are already in their prime, and the Blue Butterfly variety has just started to bloom... Maybe I'll even get into the great Delphinium consolida or Delphinium ambigua debate at some point, but for now, I'm just happy to see them bloom.

The picture posted above was from about a year ago when the poppies were in full sway.... they're just starting to do that now, so you'll see more of those soon as well. Then there's the great Pink? or No Pink? debate ongoing with certain blogger friends. Hard to beat that pink of Papaver somniferum though ... and if you have poppy seed in your cupboard for baking, they likely came from this same species. Just don't eat a whole batch of poppy seed lemon muffins and then go off for a drug test ...

To be continued ....



5 comments:

olivia said...

Wow IVG ... Your b is going to be such a wealth of info. And your lovely pix too. I'm so excited that you've started.

You must dearly love your delphs to keep w/ them in spite of their fickleness.

(And might I add that Frank's pink poppies are super lovely ... and compliment the blue perfectly ... ;)

Family Man said...

Beautiful IVG and I've learned so much. I can just imagine your whole yard and see how beautiful it is.

AndiF said...

Congrats on the new blog, IVG.

Fascinating entry -- it almost makes me want to garden... okay, that's a lie but it made me want to say that I almost want to garden.

Laura said...

I won't join the great pink or no pink debate because the pink poppies look lovely underneat the great spire of the delphiniums.

Beautiful blog, IVG, and I'm looking forward to reading about all the different ways I am killing and/or neglecting my garden.

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