Delphinium – Larkspur, Perennials Guide to Planting Flowers

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Delphinium – Larkspur

Old John
Parkinson, nearly 300 years ago, wrote “Wee call them
in English Larkes heeles, Larkes spumes, Larkes toes
or claws.” The Larkspur is surely one of the oldest
old-fashioned flowers but it is becoming more popular
today than ever. How choice are its colors! How suggestive
is the word “lark” in christening this flower, as the
lark comes from the sky, so comes also the color of
the Larkspur. From the azure of the sky to the deep
blues of the ocean depths is its range of blue. But
blues are not the only colors; there are the pastel
shades, not blue, nor pink, which suggest the combinations
of color in Copenhagen pottery. There are the dainty
double pink sorts which suggest magnificent brocades.
And what gems we find! Deep sapphires, superb amethysts,
subtle turquoises and rich garnets. Like tiny peace
doves are the white sorts.

And in
form, how diverse! We see the dolphin in the unopen
bud. We note a bee gathering nectar from a bloom and
find, instead, that, it is the hairy petals at its center.
We regard the tall spikes and see them covered by countless
horns-of-plenty, some of them pouring gold.

UTILIZE.
Can a garden be planted without Larkspurs P Foliage
flower, habit and all, every garden lover must have
them. The tall, the short, the perennial, the annual-they
are indispensable in their chosen places. Consider the
long season of pleasure at seeing them in full splendor.
Day after day in June, July, and often in September,
new spikes open their blossoms. Erect and stately against
a fence, majestic accents in a mixed border, sturdy
and hardy in the cottage garden, as well as modest and
delicate in the beds of annuals, the Larkspurs are incomparable.

VARIETIES.
The catalogs should be consulted for varieties of Larkspurs;
there are many very superior named sorts and in all
cases more to be trusted for color and habit than plants
grown from seed. The modern race has been greatly improved
through years of effort, especially in England. Recently
we in America are developing varieties of our own which
are better suited to our climate. Besides the tall sorts,
the garden lover should note the Chinese Larkspur listed
in his catalog. This is a true joy as it blooms throughout
the Summer, yielding short stems crowded with white,
pink or violet flowers. The Chinese Larkspurs differ
from most other perennial sorts by having finely divided
leaves. The real enthusiast is tempted by reading the
descriptions in the catalogs of certain sorts listed
as Delphinium nudicaule, a dwarf orange-scarlet,
D. Zalil, a yellow, D. cardinale, a bright
red. ‘these sorts do not have the robust constitution
nor the hardiness of the other kinds but they are worth
trying.

GENERAL.
Delphiniums like plenty of sun. The soil should be rich,
deeply prepared, a cool, friable loam. Even hot, sandy
soils, if watered and fertilized, will produce excellent
results. Moisture will increase the size of the flowers
and spikes. Cultivate the plants constantly with the
hoe. Marry of the taller sorts are benefited by being
staked. If the plants are cut back after blooming and
given a period of rest, during which they are neither
watered nor cultivated, then if given bonemeal and an
abundance of water, they will send up a second crop
of bloom in the Fall. Some persons believe that this
weakens the plants. No seed should be allowed to form
to keep the plants in a blooming condition.

TROUBLES.
Some. of the best sorts are frequently troubled with
blight so that they sometimes live only a few years.
Dig dry Bordeaux Mixture about the crowns or spray weekly
with fungencide. In fact, keep the plants covered with
this spray from early Spring until Fall. The foliage
is blackened by blight. If you suspect that blight is
in your soil, use bonemeal as a fertilizer, but never
use manure.

Sometimes
cut worms and slugs eat the crowns of Delphiniums, so
that it is wise to cover the crowns of the plants with
ashes at the approach of Winter. Also use a poisoned
bait spread at intervals near the plants.

PROPAGATION.
Larkspur seed over a year old will not grow. Except
for D. grandiflorum, the Chinese Larkspur, the
seedlings will not produce flowers the first year unless
sown in March in a hotbed or sunny window. Usually,
however, fresh seed is sown in August, in which case
they will bloom the next year.

Divide
the plants every three or four years in order to keep
them from exhausting the soil and becoming too compact
in growth

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