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.