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