February 23, 2009

New and Improved Delphiniums

I am a big fan of 'new and improved' versions of old garden favorites. The new versions might be disease-resistant or hardier in cold winters or hot summers. The new plants might grow more vigorously or produce more flowers. Those flowers might be larger or have a wider range of colors, more ruffles or other showy additions.

So I'm happy to post today about the new and improved delphiniums that are offered by Dowdeswell's Delphiniums, a nursery in New Zealand. This nursery has a large breeding program to create sturdier, healthier, hardier delphiniums in a large range of colors. All photos in this post are from their website and are used with permission.

I found their website several years ago, and loved perusing pictures of their delphiniums even though we were then renting and I wasn't going to order any for a while. After we got settled into our Spokane home, I ordered seeds for 'Green Twist' (pictured above) and started them indoors in a sunny windowsill. And now for a confession - I totally botched the seed-starting process. I forgot to wet the soil before planting the tiny seeds, and any of you seed-growers will know that it's almost impossible to get fine seed-starting soil to absorb moisture without stirring it around. I learned that in a plant propagation course in college, so I should have known better! Anyway, I poured and poked and prodded and finally got the soil sort of moist. Despite my forgetful antics - and lack of a more professional seed starting setup with grow lights and such - I ended up with 15 delphiniums to put out in the garden last spring. I enjoyed the creamy-greenish-white blooms and look forward to following directions on Dowdeswell's website to grow more plants from cuttings.

I didn't order any delphinium seeds this year for lack of garden space, but I've got my eye on 'Pagan Purples' (pictured above) for the future. Dowdeswell offers delphiniums in purple, lavender, mauve, pink, royal blue, sky blue, white, cream and greenish-white. Their pink 'Sweethearts' delphinium (pictured below) recently won an award of merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Dowdeswell has christened their best delphiniums 'New Millennium Delphiniums', and I've seen them offered in many catalogs at prices from $10 to $15 per plant. You can order a packet of 50 seeds from their website for just US$10, plus about $4 postage. That's a great deal, even if you botch the process and only come out with 15 plants.

New Millennium delphiniums are bred to be more tolerant of hot, humid summers, but I still don't know if they'd be happy in Florida. Another potential drawback with delphs is that they often need staking, especially in windy areas or when growing taller varieties. But after looking at these gorgeous pictures, who wouldn't be willing to do some extra work to have these beauties in their garden? Detailed instructions on how to start seed and grow delphiniums are included with seed orders from Dowdeswell and can be found on their website.

In addition to offering heaps of information about delphiniums, the Dowdeswell website includes many more beautiful pictures, including some that can be downloaded to use as wallpaper for your computer. I've enjoyed one of their delph photos on my computer all winter.

Thanks to Dowdeswell for the use of their pictures. They might not be quite as divine as Niels' rose heaven photo, but they're close! Click on a picture to enlarge it. So have I convinced you to become a delph-lover? If you've grown delphiniums before, be sure to leave a comment to tell about it.


  1. I've saved the website for the delphiniums. They are one of my favorite flowers, I love the pink ones you've shown.

  2. Wow! Thoise are the biggest and most colorful delphiniums I've ever seen!
    They don't like my garden...but they are gorgeous. gail

  3. Wonderful to see all these! I am sure they would not be happy in my hot, dry Sierra Nevada summer, so the photos are doubly appreciated.

  4. what beautiful photos of a plant I covet from afar. They'll grow down here but they don't feel happy about it. Thanks for checking in at my blog.

  5. PS: Just added you to my blogroll - you're a fun read!

  6. Hi VW, Love these delphiniums....some of my favorite colors. Just like when I had a big box of 64 crayolas ...these are the colors I picked! A gardener at an early age!

  7. Hello VW

    Another really informative post. I think the pink 'Sweethearts' is really outstanding.


  8. I love delphiniums but had them for part of just one summer. Even in the shade they don't do well here...it gets too hot. I enjoyed them for a little while, so that was nice...BUT unless I move I probably won't be growing any more.
    The ones you feature look like TREES. They are more than magnificent. They're out of this world:)

  9. Those are beautiful flowers. My sinuses are giving me a headache thought just looking at them, but they are easy on the eyes.

  10. Marcus, your comment reminds me that I should have posted the allergy rating for delphiniums. They get a 3 on the OPALS scale, which is pretty good (1 is the best, 10 is the worst). So your sinuses would probably be OK unless you buried your nose in the blooms and breathed deeply. Their leaves and seeds are poisonous if eaten, though. - VW

  11. Hi VW, the delphiniums look fantastic. I agree, seeds are fun. I'm a bit lazy, so mainly use seeds I can throw straight on the garden. Seeds also are so much cheaper. I was intrigued that you source seeds from as far away as New Zealand. I suppose it seems strange because we have strict customs laws and you can't import seeds. I suggest you check out Diggers Seeds in Dromana, Victoria (Australia). They have unusual wonderful things like heritage vegetable seeds which are in danger of dying out if the seeds are not saved. Thank you for your encouraging and wise comments on my blog. Cheers, catmint

  12. Hi VW, you have convinced me! We cannot grow delphs here in SE TN, I have tried several times. But as a young bride and mother in Pennsylvania at our first very own home too many years ago, they were easy peasy to grow, even without staking. These new seeds sound like they would be worth a go and those photos simply knock my socks off! :-)


Thanks for leaving a comment! I have comment moderation turned on to catch spam, so your comment will show up as soon as I can read and approve it.