Thursday, February 19, 2004

larkspur

Larkspur is in the delphinium family, but unlike that temperamental perennial that likes cool summers and low humdity, the annual larkspur tolerates and thrives in all kinds of places. It is an annual that will come back year after year from seed once it is established.

Larkspur is spikey and can grow up to 2-3 feet, although two feet is the average that I've had. There are different varieties, but most come in a mixture of purple, pink and white blooms. The foilage is wispy, and the flowers or brackets on the spikes are little bells of color.

It is a cool weather plant, so the trick is to plant the seed early. When I gardened in Austin, I spread it in October, along with bluebonnet seed. Bluebonnets, the Texas state flower, are an annual wild flower related to another temperamental spikey perennial, the lupine.

In the cold midwest, there are competing theories on when to plant larkspur seed. Most folk say put it on the last melting snow in late February or March. The cold and wet helps scar the seed and improves germination. But I read someone who wrote in the Indy Star that we should follow nature's advice and drop the seed in late summer or fall, giving the long cold winter an opportunity to work on the seed, putting it at its earliest moment to germinate and grow. I am covering my bets by putting out seed last fall and doing it again this weekend.

If you plant too late, the plant will hit its stride in the middle of a hot summer and then it will be stunted and probably droop. During blooming, it needs water. Spring with its cool temps give it just what it needs.

The late Henry Mitchell wrote that he had not had much luck getting larkspur to thrive in DC, but I did. It just takes time and patience to get that first crop. Let it go to seed, and when the pods open, spread the seed around. Put it in new places, too. I am ready to have some in my Indy garden.

Larkspur, like many wild flowers, doesn't like to be transplanted. But I also discovered that if you do it early, when the plantling is under 3 inches, and you are careful not to destroy it with dirt, your heavy hand, or flooding water from a hose or garden jug, you can safely transplant seedings. I do it when I thin out a patch.

I've grown them in pots and transplanted them, too, but that is not as successful.

1 comment:

qishaya said...
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