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Delphinium in bloomDelphiniums are one perennial you can really count-on for bright June garden color. What's so nice about the delphiniums is they fill that gap between the spring flowering plants and the time when the summer perennials and annuals begin blooming. The tall varieties are ideal as background plants, while the new mid-sized varieties are ideal for flower borders. All of the delphiniums make excellent cut flowers.

In recent years there has been considerable hybridizing of delphiniums, resulting in many new colors and attractive flower forms and growing heights. Flower colors range in shades of blue; purple; lavender; pink; to purest white. There are some new shades of peach and pink that are just outstanding. One of the other features of some varieties is that they have natural centers with what is referred to as a 'bee'. Meaning the centers are of a contrasting color, some are white others are black, creating a very unusual, but attractive color combination.

Some varieties may grow up to 6 or 8 feet tall, and may need staking. While the lower, dwarf types may only grow 2 to 4 feet high, and are ideal in mid-bed plantings or windy areas of the garden.

Delphiniums are easy plants to grow. They seem to do equally well in full sun or part sun and shade, as long as the planting spot provides good air circulation. The soil must be well drained, as they will not tolerate 'wet feet' during the winter. If your soil tends to be poor or heavy in texture, be certain to add ample amounts of sand and organic humus. One way to over-come poor soil conditions, is to mound the soil in a raised-bed, using a top quality planting soil.

When setting out plants, prepare a large planting hole, mixing about 50 percent peat moss, compost or processed manure with your existing soil. Add a little lime and a non-burning transplanting fertilizer as you plant. Be sure the crown of the plant is placed right at ground level.

Delphiniums are such rapid growing perennials. They benefit from special fertilization and watering care. So give them a special feeding of rose; garden; fish or all-purpose liquid plant food in late April. Then they will also require ample water during their rapid growth months of April, May, June and July.

The enormous flower spikes, often reaching as much as eight feet in height, may need to be staked to protect the flowers from being wind-whipped, thus loosening and tearing the feeder roots of the plants, which could seriously hamper growth and flowering results.

You can start new delphinium plants from seed at almost any time. From April to September the seeds can be sown directly into the garden. During the winter months of January, February and early March, start the seeds indoors. Plants started from seed during the winter will generally flower a little the first year. Those started outdoors, do not flower until the following year.

The common failures in germinating delphinium's seed are these. 1) Keeping the soil too wet. 2) Sowing the seed too deeply. Seeds should only be covered with approximately 1/8" of soil. 3) Trying to germinate old seed. Delphinium seed loses its vitality after one year. 4) Freeze the seed in the freezer for two days prior to seeding.

Two of today’s most popular delphinium strains are the Pacific Hybrids and the Fountain Series. Following are just a few of the favorites:

  • Astolat - The new raspberry rose variety.
  • Black Knight - A dark violet, with a black 'bee'.
  • Blue Beard - Medium blue with a white 'bee'.
  • Galahad - A showy pure white.
  • King Arthur - Bright royal-purple, with a white 'bee'.
  • Sky Blue - Dwarf, sky blue flowers.
  • Magic Fountain Series - These are medium height in all shades of blue, lilacs and whites.

Needless to say, these are only a few of the most popular varieties.

The delphinium's worst enemy is the slug. One way to keep them under control is to ring the plant with diatomaceous earth. This is the earth used to filter swimming pools; hot tubs and fish aquariums.

Mildew can be a problem if the plants are situated in a spot where they get poor air circulation, so planting location is the key to growing disease free plants.

Add a bright spot of color to your June and July garden with the gorgeous perennial delphiniums.


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