Delphiniums from California

Mary Sue Ittner
Thu, 05 Jun 2003 22:39:26 PDT
Dear John,

O.K. of course you knew you could get my attention since native Delphiniums 
are another favorite of mine. You probably saw Delphinium cardinale. It is 
a tall red one (although I have a yellow flowering one) from southern 
California. To quote Glenn Keator:
" Another of the large species, this comes from deep, woody roots and sends 
up stems to six feet on hot slopes near chaparral in southern California. 
Unlike most foothill species, this does not flower until late spring or 
early summer, and will take a rest later, but to thrive, it needs heat 
during the growing period. The tall stalks bear dozens of bright red, 
long-spurred flowers. Spectacular at the back of a border and a good 
hummingbird flower."

It is one of the ones I grow, but probably the one that is the least happy. 
I can't really provide the heat it wants and the snails and slugs will 
decimate it quickly if you don't watch. I have two in containers that are 
going to bloom this year and one in the ground that is not and a couple 
others that are going dormant already.

Once I learned to treat our native Delphiniums like geophytes and let them 
sit out the dry summer without water there have been quite a few species 
that have come back for me. I have lost very few in containers, but more 
planted out. I have one species or another in bloom from sometimes December 
or January through June or July. Delphinium nudicaule first, then D. patens 
ssp. patens and D. luteum, later D. hespericum (and D. hespericum ssp. 
pallescens). Delphinium parryi is especially beautiful (another southern 
California species). Delphinium hansenii ssp. hansenii, Delphinium 
uliginosum, and D. variegatum are all blooming now. D. cardinale and D. 
menziesii are yet to bloom. D. menziesii is the most gorgeous color of 
blue. Some of the earlier ones bloomed for two or three months.  Maybe they 
would last longer if they were deadheaded. There are some that actually 
qualify as geophytes since they have tubers and I grow some of those. 
Others are more like woody rootstocks. My friend Jana gave me a clone 
someone had made of a summer growing Delphinium nudicaule that bloomed all 
summer one year when I did deadhead it. I see it has reseeded in my mystery 
Ornithogalum pot which is just about to bloom and here in that pot is this 
tiny red Delphinium.

I think Dell is generally willing to offer seed in the BX of geophytes and 
companion plants as well and I have sent seed in the past. I have saved 
seed again of some of them, but never know whether if I have given it 
before if everyone who might want it has gotten it. And there is always the 
chance that since I grow so many even though I segregate them a bit the 
seed I have is hybrid seed.

I highly recommend California's delphiniums, especially the ones that come 
from coastal and foothill areas for Mediterranean climates. At least they 
work for me.

Mary Sue

More information about the pbs mailing list