10 months of non-stop color in garden possible with proper perennial planning and planting

By Steve Smith

If there was one perennial that personified a cottage garden, it would be Delphiniums. They are the epitome of what I think of when I picture a Victorian border or even just a simple country garden. Their tall stature often anchors the back of a bed and provides the height that is critical in keeping the eye moving through a landscape design. When I moved to the Northwest 30-plus years ago, I couldn’t wait to grow these beauties.

Growing up in Southern California (15 miles from the Mexican border), the weather was not conducive to perennials like Delphiniums because there was no distinct winter to force them into dormancy, so they just kept growing. For perennials to do their best, they need to rest for months and that doesn’t happen there. In the Northwest we have perfect climate for perennials that can easily provide 10 months of non-stop color. This is accomplished by planting early, mid, and late bloomers and combining them so there is a constant succession of flowers throughout the season. While most perennials only bloom for six weeks, Delphiniums are special in that after their initial bloom in early spring, if they are cut back and fertilized, they will re-bloom in September. You can find Delphiniums in the garden center this time of year in many varieties and often already budded up and showing color. Gallon-sized plants will have multiple stems, while 4-inch starts will only have one stem and will need another year to get established. Plant them in full sun and stake them before a rain or wind storm knocks them down. Sometimes Delphiniums are labeled as larkspur, so don’t get confused – true larkspurs are annuals and are much smaller. My favorite is “Black Knight,” which has dark, midnight-violet blossoms and can reach 6-feet tall. The Aurora series is a wonderful collection with 3- to 4-foot stems that are excellent for cut flowers. The color range runs from white to purple to various shades of blue, and each one has a white center, called the “bee”.

“Green Twist” from the New Millennium series caught my eye the other day. It has large white flowers tinged green, with a white and green bee – often double or semi-double. The stems reach 5-feet tall and are great for arrangements. The Guardian strains only grow to about 3-feet tall, which is perfect for smaller gardens, but the flowers are large and double as well. Colors are white to shades of lavender and blue.

All Delphiniums attract hummingbirds and other pollinators, like butterflies and bees, and are deer resistant. Slugs can be a problem in early spring, but after that the flowers are fine. Feed them with a balanced organic food, give them lots of compost, and they should be happy. If you can’t get them to live more than a few years chances are they are staying too wet.

Now is the time to shop for Delphiniums; once they are gone the nurseries won’t have them again until next year.

Steve Smith is owner of Sunnyside Nursery in Marysville and can be reached at info@sunnysidenursery.net

More in Business

It’s a good time to plant veggies

Last week I mentioned that August was a good time to plant… Continue reading

Courtesy Photo 
                                It takes watering and more to keep a garden this beautiful.
Mind your P’s as there’s plenty in the garden to do in August

August can be a surprisingly busy month in the garden. Here are… Continue reading

Right place, Right time for Marysville brewery

MARYSVILLE – It’s just what historic Third Street needed. The new 5… Continue reading

Perennial Echinacea, or ‘cone flowers,’ eye-catching this time of year

By Steve Smith An article in the September edition of my wife’s… Continue reading

Lucifer is the most well-known type of this flower. (Courtesy Photo)
Brighten up your garden with varieties of Crocosmia

By Steve Smith It is hard for me to focus on one… Continue reading

Hardy Fuchsias are so much more than a shade plant

By Steve Smith If you are looking for a perennial that will… Continue reading

Steve Powell/Staff Photo 
                                Don’s owner Sam Gohar improved the look of the lounge with a granite bar countertop and much more.
Marysville restaurant-lounge gets a makeover at age 50

MARYSVILLE – Some people nowadays like to get facelifts when they turn… Continue reading

Despite NW rain, we still need to water

By Steve Smith There is a certain fact that Northwest gardeners are… Continue reading

$32 million building going up at Marysville MIC

MARYSVILLE – Vector Development Co. of Kirkland Monday announced its MI-5 Business… Continue reading

Lavender can be used for so many things

By Steve Smith I couldn’t help but notice the other day while… Continue reading

Marysville businessman honored for supporting military

MARYSVILLE – Bristol Alliance of Companies General Manager Tom Eldsmoe was presented… Continue reading

Courtesy photos 
                                Chocolate Cosmo
4 good reasons to plant in June

When we think of gardening, May comes to mind. But June is… Continue reading