Coronation flowers?- The Delphinium
It has been reported that King Charles favourite flowers are Delphiniums, and these will feature in the wreaths and bouquets at Westminster Abbey for the Coronation.
Delphiniums are a genus of perennial flowering plants, mainly in delightful blues, soft pinks, purples and whites. These tall, stately plants with their dramatic spikes of flowers have been cultivated for centuries and have a rich and fascinating history.
The Delphinium genus includes about 300 species, with a wide range of colors and sizes. The name Delphinium comes from the Greek word “delphis,” meaning dolphin, because the shape of the flower apparently resembles the shape of a dolphin (although I am not sure I quite see that!).
The history of delphiniums can be traced back to ancient times, when they were used for medicinal purposes by the Greeks and Romans. They believed that the plant had magical properties and could ward off evil spirits. The plant was also used to treat a variety of ailments, including headaches, fevers, and digestive problems.
In the Middle Ages, delphiniums were known as “Larkspur” and were used in medicine as well as for dyeing fabrics. They were also popular as a garden plant, with the tall, spiky flowers adding a vertical element to garden beds.
Delphiniums became especially popular during the Victorian era, when they were used extensively in English cottage gardens. The plants were prized for their showy flowers and their ability to add height and drama to garden beds. This lovely example from Istvan Dudas (featured in Fine Gardening) demonstrates brilliantly the scale and impact that they bring to a border.
One famous fan of delphiniums was King Charles I of England. He was so fond of the flowers that he had them planted in the gardens at Hampton Court Palace. Today, the delphinium is still commonly known as the “King’s Flower” in honour of King Charles I. It looks as if our new King is continuing that tradition!
Delphiniums are relatively easy to grow, but they do require some care and attention. They prefer full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil, and hate heavy clay as well as being overcrowded. They also benefit from regular watering and fertilizer, and often need staking, as well as protection from slugs which can be a real problem so be ready with slug pellets or more eco (and dog) friendly alternatives.
In terms of cultivation, delphiniums can be grown from seed or purchased as young plants. They are best planted in the spring or Autumn, and should be spaced at least 18 inches apart to allow for their tall growth habit. Our friends at J.Parkers have a great selection available now, including these ‘Pacific Giant Mixed’ selection.
Delphiniums are a popular choice for cut flowers, with their tall spikes making a striking addition to floral arrangements. However, it’s important to note that all parts of the plant are toxic and can cause skin irritation or other health problems if ingested. Care should be taken when handling the plant, especially around children and pets. This is not uncommon for many plants and is a good reminder that all things natural are not necessarily safe to ingest!
We think delphiniums are a beautiful and fascinating plant with a rich history and a special place in English gardening. Whilst they are often seen as a bit troublesome, they are really worth the effort and whether grown in a cottage garden or used as a cut flower, these majestic plants are sure to add beauty and drama to any landscape.
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