Delphinium- Garden Giants
By Jos Van Hage
Saturday, August 04, 2012 03:45 AM
Delphinium is an old time perennial that can be found growing in many local landscapes. They are hard to miss because they stand above many of the other flowers and perennials. The taller varieties can grow up to six feet tall.
The name Delphis is Greek for dolphin which describes the flower petals that resemble the head and fins of a dolphin. The flowers grow on spikes that rise above the foliage, and come in shades of blue, purple, pink and white. There are also varieties that have flowers with a contrasting centre which are called 'bees'.
Although delphinium can be grown from seed they are more often sold as plants that are available in the spring/summer in the perennial section of the garden centre.
They can be a bit harder to grow so they need to be planted in the right conditions. They need a well-drained, rich, moist soil. The soil should be worked and amended with manure, compost, bone meal or peat moss before planting. Dig the hole twice the size of the potted plant which gives it room to grow. It is also important that the soil is well drained, as delphiniums do not grow well in soggy conditions which can lead to crown rot. If you are on clay soil a raised bed would be the best way to grow delphiniums.
They require full sun but do not enjoy a lot of heat. They favour cool, moist summers. By placing a thick layer of mulch around the crown (not on the crown) of the plant you will help keep the moisture in, and the temperature down, as well as keeping the weeds down. They can sometimes be bothered by fungal diseases, so good air circulation around the base of the plant is important to help with this problem. Also, when you water, water around the base of the plant which will keep the foliage dry. It also a good idea to plant them in a sheltered area, away from strong winds to protect the long, hollow stemmed, flower spikes from damage and breaking.
Once it is planted keep the soil consistently moist, not wet, by watering on a regular basis. They do not like to dry out, and have a shallow root system. The taller varieties will need to be staked and this should be done in the spring so that the roots are not damaged. Delphiniums are heavy feeders so every spring give them some bonemeal and feed them again later in the season. After they have finished flowering the finished flowers should be removed before they form seed. The finished spike is removed towards the base of the plant and there may be a chance of a second, smaller flower in the Fall.
Also, By removing the flower spike the plants energy will go towards the plant and not seed production.
Delphiniums are a short lived perennial but by dividing them every other spring they will last longer.
There are several different varieties that grow very well in Prince George. Hardy to zone two, the 'Pacific Giant Hybrids' and the ' New Millennium' varieties are the taller types. These are great for the back of flower beds or planted along walls and fences which will shelter them.
'Magic Mountain' varieties are a little shorter and there is a shorter variety yet, called 'Blue Elf' that grows 30 cm tall and wide and produces beautiful blue flowers that bloom throughout the summer.
Delphiniums are a staple in many cottage gardens and cutting gardens. The flowers attract butterflies, and hummingbirds as well as make beautiful fresh floral bouquets. They may require some extra care and attention but are well worth the effort.
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp home and garden centres in Prince George:
· Highway 16 West at Kimball Road
· Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road.
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