George says: Sing the Blues



One of my favourite exhibits at the Chelsea Flower Show is the Blackmore and Langdon stand, with its display of incredible delphinium spires. I've never had much success growing delphiniums, mainly because they are so susceptible to slugs, so I was delighted when George Blackwell suggested doing a column on them.
As you can see from the picture above, of delphiniums growing in George's garden here in Bibury, he certainly seems to know how to grow them.
These days, delphiniums come in a huge range of colours, and I particularly like the ones that are overlaid with another colour, such as this variety called 'Blue Dawn' (right). It makes the petals appear to shimmer, especially from a distance.
Blackmore and Langdon also do a mouthwatering variety called 'Turkish Delight' in a soft pink, but my personal favourites are still the blues. Take it away, George!

Tall spikes of these adorable flowers in shades of blue, pink, and white will give a blaze of colour in your herbaceous border during May and June. For the best blooms, named varieties will give the largest spikes, but you can also grow from seed which will give an array of colour. 
It is recommended to get young plants into the ground in the spring. This allows the plant to establish before the winter.  
Plant into a good loam soil to enable the roots to establish a substantial plant, which will sprout a number of shoots. All these shoots will each produce a flower spike. 
Before the shoots appear in the spring, be mindful of slugs. They enjoy nipping away at your prized plants, so put some wood ash or pellets around the plant to deter the slugs.  
The shoots will grow fast on warm days, so you need to place a 6ft cane against each shoot and tie in, and continue to tie every 6ins of growth. 
When the foliage is 3ft high, the flower bud appears. Great care is required when tying in at this point. A loose tie will enable the expansion of the stem in its fast-growing upward movement. Be careful not to damage the flower head as it tends to droop and be delicate. 
As the upward growth continues, small flower heads will appear in the leaf axils (the angle between the leaf and the main stem). These need to be removed carefully. It's a bit like pinching out the axillary shoots on a tomato plant - removing them encourages the plant to put its energy into the main stem. 
Keep the roots moist and feed by sprinkling chicken pellets or Growmore around the base. A high nitrogen feed will give bigger blooms. 
When the flowering period has ended cut foliage down to three feet. This allows the plant to store energy for the winter. Remove all foliage in September. 
On some occasions you may have small secondary flowers in the autumn. 

Delphiniums are grown commercially for the flower petals which are dried and used at weddings as confetti.  
    

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