– Posted in: Garden chores

Yesterday I managed to plant the three delphiniums I had wanted to plant last Saturday. These are not any delphiniums, mind you, but Foerster’s hybrids. I first learned of Foerster’s delphiniums in an essay of the same title by Thomas Fischer, in the collection edited by Jamaica Kincaid called My Favorite Plant: Writers and Gardeners on the Plants They Love. (There is another essay in that book by Wayne Winterrowd entitled “Meconopsis,” that is deliciously wicked in its plant one-upmanship, but then I like everything Winterrowd writes.) According to Fischer, who just happens to be the current editor of Horticulture, “in his breeding work with delphiniums, beauty was only one of Foerster’s goals–equally important were vigor, disease resistance, strong, upright flower stalks, and true perenniality.”

To make a long story short, Fischer went to Germany and brought back two of Foerster’s named hybrids. They grew vigorously and bloomed repeatedly in the course of one gardening season. Fischer was so impressed he wrote to the nursery where he had gotten the first two and ordered twenty-eight additional named cultivars. Keep in mind he not only paid for the plants, but for their three week trip across the Atlantic and the permit necessary for them to make the trip legally.

So I’ve been waiting for these plants to show up in the trade on this side of the Atlantic. I mean, Fischer has got to know a lot of nurserymen, and don’t you think pieces of those prize delphs have ended up in their liner beds? You would think, wouldn’t you? I strongly hinted to Judy Miller (I sent her a photocopy of the essay, even) that these plants would be most welcome in her Paradise Gardens Rare Plants catalog, but she said the expense and bureaucratic red tape involved in getting plants over here is more than a small operation like hers can bear.

What she does offer (and which I purchased) is delphiniums grown from seed collected from Foerster’s named cultivars. As many of you already know, seed grown from hybrids doesn’t necessarily “come true.” However, some hybrids become stable enough that their seed is reasonably close, and I’m hoping that’s the case with these. You can bet I’ll keep you posted.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

What differentiates a bulb from a perennial plant is that the nourishment for the flower is stored within the bulb itself.…There is something miraculous about the way that a little grenade of dried up tissue can explode into a complete flower.

~Monty Don in The Complete Gardener pp. 142

Comments on this entry are closed.

rosemarie hanson July 31, 2004, 11:09 pm

Most of my delphiniums are hardy and trouble free, though some didn’t come back this year. I have had great success with “Cliveden Beauty” from select seeds, and some random “Magic Fountain” ones I grew from seed. My Pacific Giants do great, and they do flop over in the wind and rain, but then, that doesn’t seem reason enough to ban them. Some years they won’t flop over, but in general, I can’t use stakes because they are attractive nuisances around small boys.

Alice Nelson July 31, 2004, 9:32 pm

Perhaps, speaking of delphiniums, I can get some advice. As soon as mine get tall and in beautiful bloom, the wind blows or it rains and they break over, no matter how I stake them. So until I find an answer they are banned from my garden. It is too frustrating. Perhaps Foersters would be the kind to grow, if I could find them. Any other suggestions?