'New Millennium' Delphiniums are available from a handful of U.S. nurseries this spring. The photo above comes from Graceful Gardens, which is offering several different cultivars.

‘New Millennium’ Delphiniums are available from a handful of U.S. nurseries this spring. The photo above comes from Graceful Gardens, which is offering several different cultivars.

I wish marigolds did it for me. Why is it that we always crave the flowers that are most difficult for us to grow?

In my garden the soil is heavy and shallow. Winters are cold (zone 4) and snow cover is pretty undependable. Summers can be warm and humid. The prevailing southerly winds are strong, and they funnel right up the valley into my perennial border. It’s not a very good situation for delphiniums.

Of course this has not deterred me. I’ve been trying to grow delphiniums in my long perennial border for more than 20 years now. Sometimes a couple of plants manage to reappear for a second year, but they rarely do more than survive. So each spring I plant a few new delphinium plants in the back of the border, ever optimistic that they’ll be something like the delphiniums I’ve seen in England and Scotland. Sometimes the odd plant takes hold and puts on a wonderful show. But it’s nothing you can count on.

For Christmas this year, my friend Sue gave me a package of delphinium seeds that she ordered from New Zealand. I won’t reveal the price, except to say that it was rather dear with the shipping and all. Her gift came with a condition that I grow out the seeds in my greenhouse and give her half the plants. (Only family and very good friends get by giving gifts like that!)

The photo above shows a nursery bed at Dowdeswell Delphiniums in New Zealand.

The photo above shows a nursery bed at Dowdeswell Delphiniums in New Zealand.

Sue had read about a new strain of delphiniums bred in New Zealand by Terry and Janice Dowdeswell. Called ‘New Millennium’ Delphiniums, they are reputed to be more sturdier of stem, more vigorous in habit, longer-lived and more floriferous. All good things.

This spring I’ve noticed that a couple nursery catalogs are starting to offer New Millenniums. Our sister company, Dutch Gardens, is offering the cultivar ‘Purple Passion’. Graceful Gardens
in Mecklenburg, N.Y., has four varieties (and lots of other tempting delphiniums!).

If you’d like to have plenty of delphinium plants for your own garden (and extras for friends), you might want to try your hand at growing them from seed. You can purchase seed directly from the breeder, like we did. At the very least, take a tour of the Dowdeswell’s web site: Dowdewell Delphiniums, Ltd. If you have a minute, you can also read Terry Dowdeswell’s blog: Delphinium Down-Under

The seeds are in my refrigerator now. Since I’ll be away in early April, I’m not going to plant them until I return. I’ll be report back later in the season as to how they’re doing.

-Kathy LaLiberte, Director of Gardening