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Cornucopia - Delphiniums - a talk by Mark Lyman

Delphiniums - a talk by Mark Lyman
Peter Schofield

Mark’s talk was conceived and put together to encourage people to grow delphiniums in their garden. To further encourage members he brought a range of plants that he had produced from his own plants to buy and grow on.

There are about 450 different species of this spectacular and sizeable plant. Many gardeners have tried to grow them in the past and failed and this is mostly down to people growing the ‘Pacific Giant’ strain - which was bred in California and then as an annual across the pond. There are subtle but substantial differences between the Californian weather when compared to our cool and unpredictable conditions and this has to be taken into account when growing delphiniums in England.

There are delphiniums that are bred for our climate and these are the ones to grow - either from seed or cuttings. Seed needs to come from a specialist supplier such as Dowdeswells or the Delphinium Society – remember the seed is short-lived unless it is stored in the fridge. Plants also need to come from a specialist nursery such as Blackmore & Langdon – they grow 50 – 60,000 plants a year, Newport Mills Nursery - or even simplydelphs.com. The secret to growing good delphiniums lies in obtaining the very best plant material; the quality produced lies literally in the genes. To have a reasonable chance of success only grow plants in good quality compost and then spoil them with feed – Tomorite is recommended. There are many excellent delphiniums to choose from - just look for those with the AGM award – about 40 are listed in Plant Finder. Some of Mark’s favourite plants are 'Blue Dawn', 'Celebration', 'Elizabeth Cook' – bred in Chandlers Ford by Alan Cook in Queens Road, 'Faust', 'Fenella', 'Giotto', 'Gossamer', 'Purple Velvet', 'Spindrift', 'Sunkissed' etc. Given the right conditions they have been found to be very accommodating, requiring the minimum of care and deliver fantastic results year after year. They are also a real talking point in the garden and it has been noted that some plants even appear to be resistant to slugs!

In addition these durable plants have been known to flower well even after 15 years in the ground! Others move house and on each occasion that people dig up their beloved plants and replant them in the new garden they achieve great success. Mark has one plant which is 29 years old and flowers up to three times in a year but then he is effective at caring for his plants – there’s a challenge!

Maintenance requires that the grower provides suitable staking, remember they can grow spikes up to eight feet tall. To support the tall and vulnerable flowering spikes use a good stake and tie with looped string which gives - not wire which tends to damage the stem of the flower spike. Mark is a committee member of the Delphinium Society as well as being Vice Chairman of Hampshire Hardy Plant Society. The delivery of the talk was light, knowledgeable and humorous and it made an entertaining introduction to the evening.

Many thanks Mark.

First published in the Hampshire Group Newsletter, Summer 2012
and subsequently in Cornucopia Issue 31.
© Copyright for this article: Peter Schofield

This article was taken from a copy of Cornucopia that was published in 2013. You could be reading these articles as they are published to a national audience, by subscribing to Cornucopia.


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