Delphiniums and Verbascums
1/22/06 - We
non-commercial web site that specializes in growing English
find ideas on growing English delphiniums from seed indoors,
fertilizing, and staking delphiniums
the home of the Alaska English Delphiniums Club dedicated to the
of the English delphinium elatum throughout the United States. Also,
experienced Alaskan gardeners share
their gardens and ideas on
growing other plants too. You can check out our main web site
dedicated to gardening in Alaska, Gardening,
out our English Delphiniums News page. Once
have grown these wonderful English delphiniums you may never want grow
other type of delphiniums. We have
included some pictures from
last year's visit to the
Society show at Wisley, England, and from the 2004 English Delphinium
Society show. Moreover, we have added pictures of English delphiniums
our new English delphinium display garden. Also, we have added some
stunning pictures to our English Cottage-Style
which type of delphiniums you grow is essential. Most of the delphinium
plants usually sold in the US are from the Pacific Giants strain, a old
strain of delphiniums that does not come close in performance to the
modern English delphinium Elatum cultivars. Unfortunately, it is nearly
impossible and uneconomical to obtain English delphinium plants
England due to the UK
very stringent Phytosanitary restrictions. So you might have to grow
your own English delphinium plants
joining the English Delphinium Society
because they are a wealth of information, send you a color
illustrated yearbook, and they send you free English delphinium seeds
open-pollinated seeds tend to produce a mixed bunch of colors, mostly
blues and purples, these plants will be of a much better quality than
the Pacific Giants. Sounds good, but there’s more. Each fall the English Delphinium Society
offers hand-crossed English delphinium seeds
for members to
These seeds will give you a better chance of obtaining the colors you
My recommendation for growing delphinium seeds indoors is keep the
delphinium seeds in the refigerator and start your delphinium seeds in
a damp seeds starting mix. Dowdeswell delphiniums uses a damp sheet of
newpaper on top of the delphinium seeds.
Once germinated the delphiniums
should be planted out
in their final
home. Give them room to
grow. Catherine explains that by spacing the
delphinium plants at
least 18 inches to 2 feet apart, enables them to grow properly,
and in a few years they will use up this space admirably.
- Try to
plant your delphiniums in full sun in a somewhat protected
because even the strongest plant can still snap in a fierce wind.
your delphinium bed is rich in organic matter.
Catherine uses compost
and gives her soil a little rock phosphate and bone meal.
- Staking English
Thinning English Delphiniums
“mature English delphiniums
produce a considerable number of shoots,
spring... the plant will carry many small, poorly formed flowering
spikes, on weak stems that will be prone to breakage and collapse.”
Catherine recommends thinning the plants to just 3 shoots in their
second year. This will put more energy into the rest of the plant
resulting in a stronger canes and bigger florets. The third year thin
to 5 shoots. From then on thin to 5-7 shoots. You should be rewarded
with a plant that will draw admiring attention from your neighbors with
such questions as, “What soil are you using. What are you fertilizing
Staking English Delphiniums
- As to
staking your plants, the Delphinium Garden
handbook says the best
method is to use three 4’0” canes placed around each plant
in a triangle and splayed outwards slightly towards the top(old bottle
corks can be placed on the top of each cane so as to avoid nasty
accidents). Approximately 1’0” of each cane should be planted in the
ground. As the plants grow twine should be tied around the stakes so as
to form a cage. For taller plants use 5’0” canes. Catherine says large
tomato cages work well, too.
English Delphiniums - Catherine adds a
cup of bone meal to each mature plant in the
spring. Also, she sprays
the leaves with kelp meal, but definitely not liquid fertilizers which
Catherine claims can cause the plant to grow deformed or “fasciated”.
Last Catherine says, “WATER, WATER, WATER.” Catherine believes the
Girdwood climate with all its rain generously contributes to her
healthy looking delphinium plants.
the plants spike has bloomed you can cut it off just below the flower
heads and enjoy the blooms of the lateral spikes. Catherine does not
let her plants go to seed so that they put all their energy back into
the plants for next year. In the fall, Catherine cuts her plants back
to the ground.
The English delphinium elatum
cultivars can live from 4-10 years,
with the pinks being the most short lived and the blues and purples the
longest lived, but Catherine believes it is all down to heritage of
each plant. If you get a plant that you really like you might want to
take stem cuttings in the spring and root them in Perlite or potting
soil to increase your stock. The Delphinium Society
detailed instructions on how to do this.
delphinium, Tiger Eye
South-central Alaska, especially Homer, is the
perfect place for modern English delphinium cultivars. “If the plants
sufficient water they can thrive here.” Catherine hopes South-central
Alaska will become the unofficial adopted home of the English
delphinium. Furthermore, in the spring, delphiniums in South-central
Alaska don’t end up being a
feast for slugs and snails. In England, in the spring, slugs and snails
are a major problem because they eat the new bud eyes and shoots. Slug
and snail injury results in damaged florets, leaving wounds to
the crown of the plant making it susceptible to fungi and disease.
South-central Alaska’s slug population aren’t very active until around
July. By then the delphinium
plants are well established and the slugs
are of little concern.
from seed is not your cup of tea there is some good
the horizon. A superior strain of English delphiniums from New Zealand
hybridized by Terry and Janice Dowdeswell are becoming more
here in Alaska. Called the called the New Zealand Hybrids these
cultivars can be purchased from on the web.
English Delphinium Society
member, Dave Taplin has over
800 English and New Zealand Hybrids delphiniums currently growing in
beds. Dave is considering selling some of these delphiniums to
nurseries next year. You may want to check out your local nursery to
see if these plants start cropping up.
a few years you might have your own version of the English delphiniums,
Sungleam or the much sought after Lucia Sahin, and unlike A.A. Milne's
poem you may soon have geraniums (blue)
and delphiniums (red)
your garden bed.
membership to the English Delphinium Society contact Shirley Bassett at
or you can
contact Shirley Bassett by mail
purchase the book
the Delphinium Garden
by the English Delphinium Society send $20 to
Dr. R. D.
2 The Grove,
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Page layout updated 1/22/06If you are
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find them here.