Tag Archive: delphinium


delphiniumsDelphinium is a genus of around 300 species of flowering perennial, biennial and annual plants that are native throughout the Northern Hemisphere and also on the high mountains of tropical Africa.

The name “delphinium” derives from the Latin for “dolphin”, referring to the shape of the nectary, though there is also a story that in ancient Rome men were pursuing a dolphin for commercial exploitation so Neptune turned it into the Delphinium!

The common name “larkspur” (referring to the bird’s claw shape of the flower), is shared between perennial Delphinium species and annual species of the genus Consolida. The famous 16th century herbalist, John Gerard gives ‘delphinium’ as an alternative name for Consolida, says that there is little written about any medicinal uses other than as an antidote to scorpion stings. He mentions the idea of laying delphiniums in the path of a scorpion tol render it totally incapable of movement until the plant is removed but says this is just one of many ‘trifling toyes’ that are not worth reading! The town of Larkspur in Colorado was given its name by Elizabeth Hunt, wife of the governor, in 1871 because of the abundance of delphiniums growing in the area

Delphinium nuttallianum

Delphinium nuttallianum

Species names of Delphinium include:

D. ajacis = possibly based on the marks at the base of the united petals which were compared to the letters AIAI

D. cardinale = scarlet

D. consolida = joined in one

D. elatum = tall

D.formosum = beautiful

D. grandiflorum = large flowered

D. nudicaule = naked stemmed

D. sulphureum = sulphur – yellow

D. tatsiense = of Tatsien, China

D. triste = sad, the dull blue of the flowers

D. zalil = native Afghanistan name.

D. 'Blue Nile'

D. ‘Blue Nile’

Delphinium_cv2

The delphinium is much admired, particularly in the cottage garden setting. Delphiniums are tall, majestic plants with showy open flowers on branching spikes. Each flower has 5 petal-like sepals with 2 or 4 true petals in the centre called a bee. Delphinium species include all three primary colours, blue, red, and yellow. Hybridisation of delphiniums has resulted in many new colours and attractive flower forms and growing heights. Most garden Delphiniums are of the hybirds raised from species such as elatum, formosum, grandiflorum and sulphureum. Flower colours range in shades of blue from palest sky, through to gentian and indigo; rich purple, lavender, pink to purest white.  In England Blackmore and Langdon, nurserymen and leading breeders of Delphiniums, were producing hybrids from early in the 20th century, producing named varieties of large well-formed delphiniums. Others have also added their skills and developed the most dramatic and eye-catching plants to grace our gardens.

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Sources and further information:

The Delphinium Society

RHS- Delphiniums

How to grow Delphiniums- Sarah Raven

Gallery of Delphiniums

The Poison Garden – Delphiniums

Quizzicals: answers to the two clues given in Plantax 13…

  • Bovine stumble – cowslip
  • Simpler tombola – rafflesia

..and 2 more cryptic clues to the names of plants, fruit or veg…

  • Cold yearning
  • How Jack Charlton refers to brother Bobby

Special thanks to Les Palmer, whose new book ‘How to Win your Pub Quiz’ was published recently. A great celebration of the British Pub Quiz!

Old School Gardener

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ChrysanthemumsI’ve received a question from a Nottinghamshire gardener about different kinds of cutting. Mr. R.Hood asks:

‘What is the difference between softwood and greenwood cuttings? I’ve read that chrysanthemums are propagated from greenwood.’

Well, Mr. Hood, the difference comes down to something quite smallsoftwood cuttings are taken from the first flush of new growth in spring, whereas greenwood cuttings are taken slightly later, when the wood at the base of the cutting is a little firmer – these cuttings do not root quite as quickly.  Greenwood cuttings are easier to handle than softwood, and they are less prone to wilting. Therefore, greenwood cuttings should be used to propagate plants that root readily, like Delphiniums, Pelargoniums and indeed Chrysanthemums. Chrysanthemum cuttings could not be easier and for every mother or grandmother plant, you can produce at least 10 of a new generation. For an easy guide on how look at this article.

Softwood cutting

Softwood cutting

And while we’re talking about propagating new plants from cuttings how about evergreen plants?

Cuttings from these plants are usually taken from ‘ripe or semi ripe wood’ (i.e. when stems are firmer and buds have developed) in early summer and autumn and rooted  in a cold frame. They can be anything from 50 -150cm long, depending on the size of the plant, and preferably with a ‘heel’ of older wood where the cutting stem has been pulled away from the main stem. You then strip off the lower leaves, and if there is no heel, make a wound about 13mm long at the base of the cutting. Apply a hormone rooting powder to the base of the cutting (just a light dusting) and insert the cutting to half their length in soil – you can probably put a number around the edge and in the centre of a pot. To help reduce water loss from the remaining leaf/leaves, cut these in half.

Semi ripe cutting

Semi ripe cutting

The pot should then be placed in a cold frame (you can also root the cuttings directly into the soil in a cold frame , but make sure it has been forked over and manured/composted a week or two beforehand).  Water them well and close the frame completely. Inspect and water them regularly and harden them off during the summer to prepare them for planting out the following autumn.

You can create your own 'mini cold frame' by using plastic covers or bags over pot-planted cuttings

You can create your own ‘mini cold frame’ by using plastic covers or bags over pot-planted cuttings

Another technique, if you don’t have a cold frame, is to put a plastic cover, or bag secured with an elastic band over the top of the pot – this helps to prevent the cuttings drying out, by maintaining a naturally humid atmosphere. These effectively become ‘mini cold frames’ themselves.

It seems you can grow some evergreen cuttings by placing them into a cut potato! - this one is Wisteria.

It seems you can grow shrub cuttings by placing them into a cut potato! – this one is Wisteria, see the link for further info

Further information:

Softwood and Greenwood cuttings – RHS

Semi ripe cuttings- RHS

Propagating shrubs in a potato

Old School Gardener

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