Delphinium – Larkspur, Perennials Guide to Planting Flowers
Perennial Flower Information
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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