Delphiniums

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There’s fully as much difference between
the older and the modern delphiniums with their long,
gorgeous spires, as there is between old-time roses,
gladiolus, peonies, and dahlias, and the newer creations.

If you’re a beginner, and close to a supply
of the modern hybrids, buy not old plants (one year
or over), but strong, young plants. If plants aren’t
available in your neighborhood, order seeds of newer
hybrids and follow exactly the instructions of the hybridzer
in getting your plants started and out into the garden
early. Purchase the best hand pollinated seed that is
obtainable. It takes just as much effort and time to
grow poor seed (you’ll see it listed as “hollyhock
type”) as it does to grow the best. So, buy the
best.

Delphinium plants wake up early in March,
in fact, delphiniums start to grow actually before you
know it in the spring. After that they like to be let
alone. They like cool roots and summer mulches. They
want good winter drainage.

Delphinium does not like deep cultivation.
Keep the blade a good eight inches away. There is no
part of the United States where delphiniums can’t be
grown when these basic conditions and care are met.
The gardener who wants change and variety will find
that delphiniums are friendly in any color combination.
For a brilliant effect, use intense blue shades of delphiniums
with tall growing; buff Thalictrum glaucum to give a
feathery note to the background. In strong contrast,
plant the orange Croceum lily and the bright yellow
Sundrop in the foreground. For a pastel effect use the
Nankeen lily instead of the orange Croceum. Violas and
`pansies in yellow and apricot, if. picked and shorn
after the early-blooming season, will come back for
another blooming period in the border.

When old plants start spring growth, look
out for slugs! Spread the slug bait. Work bonemeal in
around plants: Cultivate If you’ve a clump that’s been
blooming more than two years, try dividing it. Dig it,
hose it off, and cut it into three or four pieces, making
sure each has a bit of live crown and good root. Dust
surfaces with powdered charcoal, then replant divisions.

Wherever you live, try to finish planting
by the middle of April. Get fall-planted seedlings out
of the coldframe and into the garden. Transplant spring-sown
seedlings. Keep delphiniums growing vigorously. This
means cultivating and watering. When flower stalks appear,
stake tall-growing ones, especially if soil is sandy.
Use 7-foot stakes, 1/2 inch in diameter, painted green.
Thin out a few of the spikes to encourage giant flowers.
If you raise delphiniums just because you like them,
don’t thin this first crop-the more, the lovelier.

Water flowering plants freely; irrigate
rather than hose them, for too much sprinkling makes
for mildew. If mildew does show up, as it’s likely to
do in cool and rainy weather, spray two or three times
with one of the mildew sprays, or dust with dusting
sulfur. Cultivate between waterings.

When flowers fade, cut spikes off just
above foliage, leaving a foot of old stem. Go light
on water for two or three weeks to let plants rest.
When new growth starts, cut old stems clear off. Into
soil around each plant work a teaspoonful of plant food;
water immediately, and frequently. To keep some second
growth from blooming, break off some new shoots, leaving
two or three.

Plant delphinium seeds in early August
for bloom next midsummer. Seeds germinate best when
fresh. The trick in hot-weather sowing is to keep the
seed box dark and cool until germination, and then gradually
to admit light and air. Keep soil moist but never wet.
When three true leaves show, transplant to a shaded
coldframe for winter. Spread sand; inch deep, around
seedlings’ to discourage slugs. Set them in sunny, open
places; dig deep and put in drainage. Lighten soil with
peatmoss; enrich with plant food; sweeten with lime,
if needed. Space plants 2 feet apart with crowns 2 inches
below ground. Firm soil; water.

Delphiniums are their best when 2 years
old, but with care produce good bloom for three or more
years.

See to it that all delphiniums have good
drainage, for if icy water stands around crowns, loss
will be heavy. Delphiniums rarely need winter protection,
even in zero sections. They don’t mind freezing; it’s
freezing-and-thawing, and cold wet feet that are bad.
When cleaning garden for winter, rake lightly around
plants so as not to injure their crowns. Never move
delphiniums when dormant.

Before the ground freezes, bring in a
box of loam and sand to use in seed boxes. A good mixture
for delphiniums is 1/3 loam and sand, 1/3 peatmoss sifted
and sterilized.


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