Thursday, December 28, 2006

'My Favorite Plant' writers and gardeners on the plants they love.
Jamaica kincaid

December's Garden Book Club Choice

One of my least favorite plants is Delphiniums.It is one of those irrational dislikes born of preconceived ideas and developed prejudices that occur when one simply can not like everything.It just sounds way to Pollyanna don't you think, to like everything I mean.So prejudging plants that need staking, perennials that are short lived and nursing a general dislike of ruffles there was no chance of getting to know this entire group, personally. And so I read this piece with interest.
I have never read any of Karl Foerster's work. Thomas Fisher's praise has me looking for translated to English volumes. His writing is discribed (by Fisher) as quasi-mystical and High Rhapsodic, an almost religious invocation of the color blue as an all pervading cosmic energy.Even the names of his books draw one to read.Well, me anyway...

Delphiniums from Thomas Fisher
excerpt...And yet my early attemps with them (Delphiniums) were disastrous. The Pacific Giants,which are the only Delphiniums widely available in the United States, behaved like spoiled, sickly aristocrats. They sulked. They mildewed. They demanded to be trussed up. They languished in the July heat. When they died usually after only a single season, I was secretly glad.

At first I thought my slovenly gardening skills were to blame. But then an afternoon spent with some old issues of the bulletin of the American Delphinium Society turned up some interesting facts.

As many delphinium fanciers know, the Pacific Giants were developed by Frank Reinelt, a Czech gardener who emigrated to the United States in 1925 and soon thereafter helped found the firm of Vetterle & Reinelt in Capitola, California. What is not so well known is that Reinelt used the short lived, red flowered American species Delphinium cardinale in his breeding program, both to produce pink-flowered hybrids and to intensify the color of his blues, which he found "rather cold" without the D. cardinale genetic admixture but "brillant,alive, and warm" with it.
The fact that his Pacific Giants also tended to behave like annuals bothered him not at all. In 1944 he wrote: "Here [in the U.S.] hardly any plant lives longer than two years...True perennialism is not as important as the color, size of spike,and habit."

The legacy of this rather airy dismissal has been generations of frustrated, delphinium-phobic gardeners.

Here, here....

Of course he goes on to praise Delphiniums developed by Karl Foerster.

another excerpt...
In his book (The Garden As A Magic Key ), Foerster wrote: "In every zone of the world and every month of the year, somewhere or other the blue fire is blooming forth."
If he's watching, up there in some delphinium-blue gardener's Valhalla, I hope he knows I'm keeping the flame burning


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've had some luck with the looser delphiniums - the bright cobalt of 'belladonna' has come back for three seasons now.

30/12/06 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You gave me some hope! I'm restoring a historic garden that was filled with delphiniums, so I can no longer avoid them even though I swore off trying them again in my home garden years ago. Since the garden was planted between 1912 and 1921, I need to find an older species than the Pacific Giants, although the pictures of the garden show very tall plants so I won't be able to avoid staking.

30/12/06 10:11 PM  
Blogger Annie in Austin said...

Although I had sporadic success with delphiniums in Illinois, here in Austin I use the annual members of the delphinium family, the Larkspurs, which grow quite large here and reseed well. You don't get the impact of one huge stalk, but they're better team members!

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

1/1/07 8:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read My Favorite Plant intending to post a review and then never got around to it. But I too was intriqued by the description of Karl Foerster's books. I came across your blog while Googling for info about him. There's a book titled Rock Gardens Through the Year listed on, but it doesn't sound all that mystical to me and it was apparently published after he died and I don't plan to do any rock gardening anyway. If you run across any other English translations of Foerster's work, I'd love to hear about it. Apparently, some of his gardens in Germany still exist, and are open to the public.

17/1/07 11:16 AM  

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