Friday, March 30, 2012

D is for Delphinium

Do you have a list of plants that you are determined to figure out and grow? 

I do. 

Delphinium are high on my version of that list. 

I can't tell you how many times I have struck out with delphiniums over the years. 

Given my track record with this tall perennial, you might think that I would have given up a long time ago, but no, it only seems to have made me more determined.

These aren't my delphiniums, by the way. Gosh, how I wish they were! 

The few survivors in my garden are much more straggly looking than these beauties. 

When I consult one of my favourite reference books on the subject of delphiniums, it says, "Hardy and relatively pest and disease free, delphiniums flourish in all of Canada except the Artic."

Great. Now there is a low blow. They apparently flourish everywhere in Canada, but the Artic and MY garden!

Reading on it says,"Planted in groups of three of one color behind medium-height perennials, they give a regal touch to a sunny bed, creating waves of blue, pink or white in a summer breeze." 

Regal flowers swaying in the breeze sounds worth a bit of extra effort, doesn't it? 

So, where the heck am I going wrong?

My reference advises that delphiniums "like full sun, well drained, but moist rich soil". It continues,"Set out plants in May, making sure that the crowns are at ground level and firming the soil around the roots so no air pockets remain. Keep plants well watered until they are established and use a weak solution of 15-30-15 fertilizer every two weeks through the growing season."

Based on this good advice, I need to pamper my young plants a bit more through their first year.

Still, my biggest problem seems to be something else altogether.  I tend to lose my delphinium suddenly and unexpectedly after a few years.

My latest theory on what is behind my lack of success lies in my starting point. I think that I have been setting myself up for failure from the get-go.

You see, I have always relied on Pacific Giants, a series of hybrids developed by a Californian breeder, Frank Reinelt. Pacific Giants were intended to be an improvement on British and European hybrids, which were not robust enough to stand up to the extremes of the North American climate.

Though an improvement on older varieties, Pacific Giants still don't seem to have the might to hold up through the winters in my Ontario garden.

After a little bit of shopping around, I have noted that are other varieties of delphinium available. 

So that is the direction that I am headed in next. 

If, unlike me, you have had good luck with delphiniums, I would really love to hear words of advice!

P.S. Have a great weekend everyone. 
Can you believe that we have snow in the forecast here. 
Can you hear the scream in my head? Nooooo....!

The quoted advice in this post comes from Favourite Plants, expert advice on choosing and growing the best plants which is a compilation of articles from Canadian Gardening Magazine edited by Liz Primeau. Published by McArthur & Company, Toronto. It is a great book to pick up should you happen to see it in your local bookstore.


  1. Be still my heart...I love Delphiniums too. Because of our warm weather we can only grow them as annuals and they never seem to achieve the wonderfulness of cooler climates. I have tried them before but without much success, much like Peonies ~ sigh... Hope you find a variety that works for you.

  2. Slugs and snails were and still are my problem when growing Delphs. I solved this by growing them in containers well above slug level. But last year I decided to plant in the ground and a weeks ago I kept watch for the emerging shoots - the slug invasion had started and a few were nibbled. So I spread organic slug pellets and stopped them in their tracks. They are coming along nicely now and are about 6in. high. Fingers crossed all will be well.

  3. D is for Delightful, Divine and Dang...I've got to get some of those.

  4. I bought this perenial 10 times but never come in to flowers because the snails are acting more quick as I do I think. I have a family of hedgehof family behind my garden so I don't want to destroy the snails by snailpoising becaus of this family. But I have your blog to see how beautiful this flowers would be if I did destroy the snails. Lovely weekend

  5. Gorgeous flowers and photos! These are such beautiful flowers. My mom has a few in her garden but just about the time they start blooming really well we tend to get wind storms that blow them over.

  6. I love delphiniums too. But sadly they are one of those perennials that doesn't last more than 3 or 4 years for me either. So I've given up and am trying to find another tall plant to take their place.

    It's snowing/freezing rain here right now. How I yearn for the milder March we had a couple weeks ago.

  7. I feel for you in your quest to grow delphiniums, gardening can be so frustrating! We have so many slugs and snails that I have never tried.
    I go the extra mile for beautiful blue meconopsis, they like weather colder than ours but I grow them in shade to keep them cool, they do need a bit of extra work but are sooooo worth it!

  8. I am in love with Delphiniums, love the color combinations. I tried them in Virginia, the voles loved them! Maybe I will give it another shot, though I think my luck is like yours with these pretty blooms.

  9. I have heard that the newer varieties are short lived. Thankfully, I have some in my MN garden that came from my mother's garden, which came from her mother's garden... you get the picture. I don't have full sun so they could do better, but they're beautiful in the back of the boarder. I just wish the blooms lasted longer as they are beautifully romantic!

  10. I believe it is the soil conditions here not to their liking. I do have some the grow shaded under a large lilac and have been there for ten years, but generally, they peter out here eventually too.

  11. Oh my goodness how beautiful these flowers are, I adore the color! :-)

  12. I have never had luck with delphiniums either. Let me know the variety you end up choosing.

  13. Jennifer girl I do not have these plants .. I am shy of them for all of my neighbor across my back fence .. has gone on and on and on about them with problems .. she does not speak in quite tones either ... BIG sigh !
    In any case .. I thought I have heard of cultivars from New Zealand that were supposed to be much hardier and stronger for keeping themselves upright .. but I just can't remember the name for them .. brain has fired off to many burnt brain cells lately ? haha
    I wish you good luck though if you are determined to try again !
    They do look stunning !

  14. Jennifer, the fact you can get them to grow at all is very impressive to me. I have never had any luck with them, though I adore the colors and their form. Good for you, not giving up like I did!

    I hope the snow is just a blip on the meteorologist's radar (but secretly, I'm terrified we're going to get some too, this is just too good to be true.)

  15. I have never tried growing delphiniums, but I love the look of them. Good luck in your pursuit.

  16. I am trying too, Jennifer ! But only from seeds ... Let's hope they will flower in our gardens this year !

  17. I've never tried delphiniums simply because they tend to fall over in the wind. (especially now on PEI they would never stand a chance!) My mother always had them and it took copious amounts of string, woven like a web, through and around them to make them stay up through the summer.

  18. I have tried also Jennifer but gave up after a few years of failure. They are so expensive here when you buy the potted plants that I just couldn't justify using them as annuals.


  19. After seeing your gorgeous photos no wonder you keep trying! I've heard the Magic Fountains and Millennium delpiniums are tougher than the Pacific Giants.

  20. Delphiniums are one of my favorite garden flowers, but I have not found the right spot for them. Perhaps I need to give them that extra TLC as you suggest for the first year. They are so striking in a garden...

  21. beautiful shades of blue and purple. Such pretty flowers.

  22. I love delphiniums but haven't had much luck with them either. I hope you have success this year.

  23. Jennifer, these are absolutely GORGEOUS!!
    I do okay with the delphinium, but have an awful time with Heliotrope which is one of my favorites!
    Happy Sunday to you!

  24. How beautiful! Love these photos.

    Thanks for your sweet comment on my project. Have a great week!


  25. I did like the Delphiniums in the garden, but so did the slugs and snails. And why did the six footers reach ten feet in my garden. Will I try them again? probably.

  26. I grew delphiniums in my garden in upstate NY but since I only lived there for 2 years I'm not sure if they're still there. They grew easily so they must not have been the Pacific Giants. I don't recall doing anything special except giving them a lot of compost. I'm just as stubborn as you are when it comes to growing plants. If I really love a plant but keep killing it, I just try, try again!

  27. Awww, how gorgeous! Delphiniums are very popular in Italian gardens (even my in-laws have them), but I have never seen them here in Scotland.
    Hope you are having a lovely new week. :) We have snow in the forecast too, but for now we are only getting rain.

  28. Well at least you've managed to keep some for a few years. If I had any advice to offer I would. As it is, I'll need to come back and see if you get any good advice! I too love delphiniums but am also a failure when it comes to growing them.
    Gorgeous photos, by the way.

  29. Delphiniums grow in our climate due to the heat in the summer so I don't even try. I love them though.

  30. We'd have to agree that these are indeed amazingly beautiful Delphiniums. Any garden enthusiast would find these flowers lovely and be envious of the fortunate gardener who owns these blooms. Thanks for sharing!

  31. Aha - it is snowing here in Spokane right now, after a lovely warm day yesterday. As for delphiniums - I have had a lot of success with them. I think many types aren't long-lived, so maybe it isn't strange that yours have died after a few years? Anyway, I really like the dwarf 'Magic Fountains' delphs as well as the 'Millenium' series from Dowdeswell in New Zealand. I ordered seed for both types a few years ago and sprouted them in trays in my bathtub. Perhaps one of these types would work better for you than the old Pacific Giants. And Dowdeswell's site is a joy to peruse with lots of gorgeous delphinium photos. Good luck!

  32. Lovely choice for "D." I love delphiniums too. I grew 'Pacific Giants' in Wyoming (when I lived there) and had great luck with them. I always attributed the success to the cooler weather? It's much warmer in Colorado & they don't seem to do as well. I now buy the Magic Fountain variety which I don't have to stake as much. I hope you find some that will work for you. The way you work magic with the camera, you need your own to photograph!

  33. Have you tried the Round Table series? I have the Galahad and Guinevere (white & pink) and both do wonderfully in my Calgary garden. I don't fuss over them too much as my garden is all about survival of the fittest. :)


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