HARDY PERENNIALS: DELPHINIUM

Delphiniums do not come to perfection without effort. They need deep rich soil, are not immune to pests and diseases, and almost all need staking to avoid the havoc strong winds can cause. Specialists think nothing of producing spikes up to seven feet tall, but more recently it has been realised that for ordinary and modern gardens, such heights are troublesome to cope with, if not somewhat incongruous as well. This applies especially to named varieties which can only be propagated by division or basal cuttings. This makes them expensive to produce and to buy and since there has always been a demand for the more cheaply produced seed raised plants, a good deal of progress has been made towards achieving reliability as far as colours are concerned from seed. Some of these strains include the blood of shorter lived types and what are still known as D. ‘Pacific Hybrids’ contain some very rich colours, including pinks and purples, as well as true blues. They can be sown under glass and by keeping them on the move, they will flower later in the same year, but are not likely to live more than 2 or 3 years, as a general rule. The longer lived mixtures or strains from seed will mostly survive for five years and occasionally for much longer, but for long life the vegetatively produced varieties are supreme provided the soil is well drained and plants are kept healthy and free from slug damage. Planting is safest in spring just as new growth begins and when dividing old plants, healthy shoots with young fibrous roots should be selected, discarding any woody or damaged growth.

DELPHINIUM Giant Pacific 'Summer Skies'

DELPHINIUM Giant Pacific ‘Summer Skies’

D. ’Lamartine’ is one of the Belladonna varieties. These have smaller flowers on more branching, slender spikes than the more usual and mostly taller varieties. They too flower in June and July, but need less space and are generally quite reliable and good for cutting. Apart from Lamartine, there is the sky blue D. ‘Blue Bees’ and the deep violet blue D. ‘ Wendy’ and a clear mid-blue D. ‘Peace’. D. ‘Pink Sensation’ could also be included here. It is a charming long flowering plant, but not very robust, growing only 2y2-3 feet high from a fairly small plant. This, and the Belladonnas mentioned above, must be increased by division or basal cuttings in spring. No list of varieties in the taller Delphinium varieties need be made. They can only be obtained from specialists whose catalogues will give full descriptions for each, but full account should be taken of height. It is too late, often enough, to stake Dephiniums when flower buds are showing, because they are then already weakened by wind or by their weight. Nowadays there are named varieties, that do not attain more than a modest 4 feet or so, and these are easier to cope with.

The D. ‘Pacific Hybrids’, as seed or as seed raised plants of flowering size can be had as a mixture, or in shades of a given colour. D. ‘Astolat’ is in pinkish shades, D. ‘Black Knight’, representing the deepest violet blues, D. ‘Blue Jay’, mid-blue with white eye. D. ‘Cameliard’, lavender blue, D. ‘King Arthur’, purple and D. ‘Galahad’, white.

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