Yellow delphiniums

Mary Sue Ittner
Fri, 23 Jan 2004 07:05:49 PST
Dear All,

O.K. I'll bite on this one. For all of you who have read my comments on 
Delphiniums before you can just hit delete. In the early days of another 
unnamed bulb list I caused a huge controversy simply by asking if we could 
discuss Delphiniums. It was amazing how strongly some people reacted so I 
have kept a lower profile about them and have resisted making a wiki page 
for them even though I have really wanted to.

There are some that are definitely tuberous, but others would be described 
as perennials with stick like roots. If you used the definition of geophyte 
as something that you could put in a envelope and send to someone when it 
was dormant, they would surely qualify, but if they had to be bulbs, corms, 
tubers or rhizomes, most of them would not. They are in the Ranunculaceae 
family and we have a couple of genera in that family with species that are 
considered "bulbs", but many species are a stretch.

In California we have two kinds: those that are coastal and foothill plants 
that start into growth after it starts raining usually in winter and bloom 
in spring and  go dormant in summer and those that live under snow in 
winter in the mountains, start to grow when the snow melts and  bloom in 
the summer.  Many of the latter are found in areas that are still quite wet 
into summer and can be quite tall.

I've been growing as many of the coastal and foothill species (many of 
which are much shorter) that I can find seed of and am having really good 
luck growing them like bulbs, moving them to the shade in summer when they 
dry out. They start into growth when it starts raining, sometimes sooner if 
I water them in the fall. They are beautiful, long blooming, and have been 
really easy for me, returning year after year when I leave them in their 
pots. They bloom from seed in 1-3 years for me.

I've lost some I've planted out, but some of them are returning. I was 
quite pleased to see Delphinium luteum returning and looking quite vigorous 
this year from one I decided to try in the ground a year ago. I would 
suspect the ones that Jane sent out have done just fine. Delphinium luteum 
is extremely rare, apparently found in just one place near Bodega Bay, 
Sonoma County, California, south of my location (north of San Francisco on 
the coast). My climate shouldn't be too different so I'd love to get some 
established in my garden. It probably would have made my favorite list if I 
thought it would be allowed. I've just added a picture of it to the wiki, 
but will take it off in a month or so if the  consensus is that we 
shouldn't include them. Letting me call them geophytes would make me very 
happy. :-)…

I believe the species Jim mentioned is supposed to be tuberous. Some of the 
tuberous ones I grow have very tiny tubers. When he mentioned "the yellow 
Delphinium" little did he know that we West Coasters might have a different 
species in mind.

You have to protect these from the snails (and I found this year from the 
fall birds who found the leaves quite tasty when they first appeared). Mine 
are visited by quite a few pollinators and the seed pods often break apart 
before you notice meaning that you will get seedlings in other pots. I have 
some mixed Delphinium Cyclamen pots and I haven't quite had the heart to 
root them out. The Cyclamens reappear before the Delphininums.

Mary Sue

>Jim asked,
>Has anyone out there tried the yellow Delphinium? It qualifies as a
>>geophyte. [D. zalil/sulphureum]

Mary Sue Ittner
California's North Coast
Wet mild winters with occasional frost
Dry mild summers

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