Delphinium

Delphinium is one of the most popular of hardy perennial plants, for in this plant we have an extremely wide range of blue shades as well as pinks, lilac and white. Many of the newer sorts have a prominent dark or ‘bee’ centre.

Delphiniums like the sun and a good, well-drained, fairly rich soil. With these conditions provided, they will give a remarkable response. Disappointment is sometimes experienced by the crowns rotting off during the winter; this is usually caused by stagnant moisture around the stems. Slugs can be troublesome and do considerable damage to young shoots and leaves. With good drainage and suitable steps taken to prevent slugs, there should be good results.

For early flowering, it is best to sow seed as soon as it is ripe, otherwise it should be kept in a refrigerator to retain full germinating power. Sowing can also be done in the spring, the seedlings being pricked out, and when big enough to handle transferred to their flowering quarters in September. Strong plants can be divided carefully as soon as the flowering has finished, or cuttings from young shoots can be taken in the spring.

Delphinium

Delphiniums are not used for indoor decoration nearly as much as they deserve to be, chiefly because they are regarded as being too stiff and formal looking. This is not really so. Particularly in really large arrangements, the spikes give the essential towering line, since they may be anything from 2 to 4 ft in length. They make a splendid decoration when placed in containers on the floor. Even quite small spikes fit into arrangements suitable for the ordinary-sized room.

Some gardeners object to cutting the spikes for the house, since it means sacrificing the laterals which normally develop quite freely. This can be overcome by leaving the mainspike and using the laterals or side-growths.

Individual florets with their quite long stems, can be used for many purposes, either when they are just opening, or when the petals are fully exposed. They may be used for example for posies, basket designs, buttonholes and bouquets, as well as for indoor decoration.

There are named varieties in abundance, as will be seen from the catalogues of delphinium growers. The ‘Pacific Giant’ strain is an advance so far as colour is concerned, for apart from the many blue shades, there are purples, pinks, lilacs and whites, most with a dark central ‘bee’. These plants are best moved in the spring, since autumn transplanting often leads to black crown rot.

Apart from the tall, massive spikes of the large-flowering del- phiniums, the ‘Belladonna’ varieties are most desirable. They vary in height from 2 to 4 ft and have finely cut foliage and well-branched, wiry stems, the florets being more widely spaced than is the case with the larger delphiniums. They are most useful for cutting and table decoration, their natural beauty and lightness being coupled with long-lasting qualities.

They can be raised from seed and their general cultivation is the same as for the larger sorts. Among the named ‘Belladonnas’ are ‘Capri’, sky-blue; ‘Theodora’, mid-blue, shaded rosy-purple; ‘Blue Bees’ and ‘Cliveden Beauty’, Cambridge-blue; ‘Isis’, gentiana-blue, and `Lohengrin’, deep blue. ‘Pink Sensation’ is another excellent variety, while Delphinium cardinalis grows 3 ft high and has loose spikes of cardinal-red.

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