Flower Arranging With Delphiniums

There is no doubt that delphiniums are some of the most valued of all flowers for tall arrangements either in their many shades of blue, or in white. I understand that there is some expectation of breeding red, orange and yellow delphiniums for the public market. Although these may be beautiful when they appear and make splendid contributions to a flower group it seems to me that the blue delphiniums, ranging as they do from the palest to the deepest blue, some of them with mauve petals intermixed with blue, some of them with large black centres, others in a light sky blue with white, will be hard to surpass. The white delphiniums are also lovely, again coming in a variety of types of flowers, and are especially useful for decorating on regal occasions, for weddings. Church festivals, etc.

To grow delphiniums in the garden is not a difficult matter once they have got well established. They will adapt to most conditions, as long as they are kept well fed and reasonably damp in hot weather. The same applies if they are growing in a sandy soil which will not hold the moisture. Delphiniums will grow equally well in the border amongst other herbaceous plants, or they will thrive amongst shrubs if it is made sure that they get the sun, and that the shrubs are not too closely packed together. If the centre stems are cut down immediately after flowering they will usually send out side shoots which in turn will flower later on in the season, producing that welcome touch of blue or white at a time when the border is beginning to show up in terms of autumn reds and yellows. This second crop can be most helpful for flower arrangers.Flower Arranging With Delphiniums

A colour note from Miss Jekyll in her book Home and Garden seems of relevance here, and might suggest other ideas when one thinks of all the various shades of blue that are available in delphiniums. She remarks that as far as her own colour requirements of flowers went, ‘It was better to treat blues with contrasts rather than with harmonies. And I had observed, when at one point, from a little distance, I could see in company the pure deep orange of the herring lilies ( Lilium croceum) with the brilliant blue of some full blue delphiniums, how splendid, although audacious, the mixture was, and immediately noted it, so as to take full advantage of the observation when planting-time came. In the autumn two of the large patches of lilies were therefore taken up and grouped in front of, and partly among, the delphiniums; and even though neither had come to anything like full strength in the past summer (the first year after removal), yet I could see already how grandly they went together, and how well worth doing and recommending such a mixture was. The delphiniums should be of a full deep blue colour, not perhaps the very darkest, and not any with a purple shade’.

This seems to be such an excellent planting idea, capable of being carried out in a flower arrangement, that it is worth quoting in full, especially noting the shades of blue indicated to make a good foil to the deep orange lily.

So much for the blue, and now some suggestions, either for planting or arranging the white. There is a grey and white garden in the well known garden at Sissinghurst Castle, Kent, England, and anyone who has seen this during the summer will immediately realise how beautiful the white delphiniums can be in such surroundings. Grey, white and cream are the chief colours of this garden and the result is very lovely. For flower arrangements this leads one to think in terms of white flowers, such as white delphiniums, with grey foliage plants, white roses, mullein, white clematis, mock orange ( Philadelphus), white daisies, alliums (green and white) and rosemary. The charms of such a mixture are difficult to define, and, of course, it is not necessary to have all those mentioned in the group at the same time. (Perhaps they might not all be out at once.) But the idea is there, to be carried out by each person as their preference indicates.

Apart from their use for tall arrangements, delphiniums have great usefulness in dried flower groups. They dry almost without any trouble at all. I usually hang my bunches in as cool an airing cupboard as possible — I deliberately leave the door open a little to ensure that there is not too much heat as this sometimes happens on a hot day but try not to leave them in a day too long for they will soon bleach and lose their lovely tones of colouring if they have too much heat. The minute they feel slightly like paper to the touch it is time to take them out. Some people hang them up on an open landing or passage where they get sun (too much sun also causes fading), and others hang them in a cool greenhouse. As with all dried flower materials they must be in good condition when they are dried. It is no good cutting delphiniums which are beginning to drop. After cutting, or buying them from the florist, it is helpful to give the delphiniums a good deep drink of water in a bucket or tall jug, before plunging them into their drying operations.

Delphiniums in the garden often get slaughtered by slugs, and though there are well known chemical applications for these, it is important to keep a watch out for invaders. Grit or small bits of broken slate are also recommended for encircling the plants, and yet another idea is to sow a ring of mustard seed, but I have no personal experience of this suggestion and so cannot vouch for it. Constance Spry emphasises this problem when writing about delphiniums and relates the success of Mr. Norman Hadden, of Porlock, in his wholesale conquest of slugs. He mixed crushed meta (this is a chemical compound of carbide often substituted for methylated spirits) with bran, and the results were enviable.

Mrs. Spry also mentions some of her favourite delphiniums, both for growing and for arrangement, a few of which are listed here:

  • Lady Belinda, a tall white, with most handsome spikes.
  • Dawn, a grey blue and pale lilac with a coppery centre.
  • Blue Gown, an ultramarine blue.
  • Duchess of Portland, an ultramarine blue. Magic Moon, almost opalescent.
  • Princess Margaret, a delicate lavender and blue.
  • Queen of Delphiniums, a lightish mauve, double. Here is a selection from a well known nurseryman’s recent list:
  • Kitty, a pure gentian blue, 41- ft.
  • Colonel F.R. Durham, a gentian blue, about 5-1- ft. Crystal, a sky blue with a white eye.
  • Father Thames, a gentian blue, flushed violet rose, 5 ft.
  • Laura Fairbrother, mauve with a white eye, semi-double, exceptionally tall and fine. 7-1 ft.
  • Mrs. Tippetts, a rich violet purple, semi-double, 5 ft.
  • Sonata, sky blue, with a white eye, about 5 ft. Betty Hay, purest sky blue, 5-1 ft., late flowering.
  • Ann page a cornflower blue, about 5 ft.
  • Blue Bees, rich blue, single, 3 ft. early flowering.
  • Pink Sensation, light rose pink, single about 4 ft. keeps up a continuous show of flowers from June to September.
  • Moerheimii, a pure white, about 4 ft. single.
  • Wendy, a dark blue, about 5 ft. single, mid-season flowering.

There is a wide selection and one can think of few sights finer in the garden than a collection of different blue delphiniums, perhaps with white lilies, or as suggested by Miss Jekyll, with orange lilies against the specially selected blue of certain delphiniums. Again, a group of tall white spires would be effective, especially against a dark background such as yew, box or lonicera. The same ideas apply to flower arrangement, and a mixture of blue delphiniums with white lilies or roses or carnations and, perhaps, a touch of scarlet or crimson, such as a Zephirine Drouhin rose, would make a wonderful display — or, again, a group of white delphiniums against an olive green wallpaper. Although they are mentioned earlier in connection with weddings it is almost impossible to overemphasise the value of white ones in a large group of mixed white flowers.

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