Two western delphiniums

Mary Sue Ittner
Fri, 11 Nov 2005 18:27:10 PST
Hi John,

I usually wait until fall to start these seeds so I can keep their initial 
growth going a longer time so there is a larger rootstock/tuber when they 
go dormant. I transplant them when they are quite small into single pots 
and keep potting them up as they grow, kind of like John Grimshaw does 
California Lilium. Grown that way sometimes I can get them to bloom the 
first year if the growing period is long enough, but usually the second. 
You'd be surprised how fast the roots of one plant can fill a pot and it 
seems if they dry out they sometimes stop growing and go dormant.

 From my personal experience and yours could be different I have had better 
luck in getting those I plant in the ground to return if I plant them out 
when they have developed a bigger tuber or rootstock. They all go dormant 
for me in summer and I water them maybe monthly. At least I read somewhere 
that you didn't want them to shrivel, nor to rot so some water but not a 
lot might be helpful.  Some of the ones I've planted out have returned and 
some I've never seen after the first year. I had a magnificent Delphinium 
cardinale in the ground that didn't put out new leaves after the first 
leaves were eaten and did not return the following year. You have to guard 
the new leaves from birds and snails.

There are California Delphiniums that are coastal and foothill species that 
come into growth after it starts raining and bloom in the spring. There are 
mountain species that lie under snow in winter and bloom in the summer. 
There are some that grow in seeps and some that are on slopes and cliffs 
and therefore want well drained soils. So there isn't one rule for all.

Delphinium hesperium has been a very reliable one for me, but this species 
grows in my area. Cathy Craig had luck with it too in Southern California 
when I gave her one so it may be an adaptable species. Last year I planted 
out a species, Delphinium hansenii, that I had been growing in containers 
for a number of years. It was never in bloom for long. In the ground it got 
three or four times taller than it had in the container and bloomed a long 
time and I ended up having to stake it. I'll be curious to see if it 
returns. Delphinium nudicaule, D. luteum, and D. hesperium have returned 
for a number of years in my garden. They do hybridize and seed themselves 
about a bit if you grow a lot of different species.

Mary Sue

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