Dark Blue/Dark Bee

Dark Blue/Dark Bee
Magic Fountain Larkspur


"How gorgeous that shock of red lilies, and larkspur cleaving
All with a flash of blue!„when will she be leaving
Her room, where the night still hangs like a half-folded bat,
And passion unbearable seethes in the darkness, like must in a vat."

-D.H. Lawrence
(1885-1930)

   

Delphinium means "Little Dolphin" because the ancient Greeks saw in the shape of the spurred buds a miniscule finny dolphin. The dolphin was anciently associated with mercy, & legends of dolphins saving sailors from drowning have recurred throughout human history. Dolphins were the escourts or steeds of beautiful ocean-nymphs, having once been land-dwellling men whom Dionysios had turned water-dwellers.

They were the chariot-steeds of the goddesses Aphrodite & Atargatis, hence associated with merciful love. All these associations were conferred upon the flowers, including even a dark side to dolphin mythology, as they were sometimes guides to the land of the dead (among the ancients, the sea & the underworld were one).

Since delphiniums were sometimes used medicinally, but were sufficiently toxic to sometimes cause harm rather than improve health, they were, like their namesake dolphins, simultaneously merciful & gloomy, with the darkest blue flowers associated with night & a peaceful death.

The Delphinium x elata 'Magic Fountain' series consists of semi-dwarf delphiniums that grow to only three feet tall, two of which is the length of the flower spike, clumping to eighteen inches or two feet wide.

Except for their compartatively small stature, they look just like the 'Pacific Giant' series. They require full sun, in humus-rich well-draining soil & moderate moisture. Extremely cold-hardy, they can be gardened from zone 4 to zone 8, & possibly even in zone 3. They are not nearly as heat-hardy & will not perennialize above Zone 8, but can be grown in warmer climates as very successful winter annuals.

They are extremely upright, require no staking, & are not knocked over by wind as can be taller delphiniums. Many delphinums when grown from seed do not bloom theirfirst year, but the 'Magic Fountain' series will bloom their first summer if started indoors from seed & planted out after last risk of frost. Their first year they may not be as reliably upright, but from the second year on they are extremely sturdy.

The series is available in white, lilac, pink, sky blue, white with dark bee, dark blue with white bee, & dark blue with dark bee. This one, shown in its first year, is the dark blue (violet-blue) with dark (blue-black) bee.

The "bee" is the mark in the center of each flower in the spike, which cause this color-form to be unusually shocking blue. It is one of the most intensely blue of all delphiniums, & I think it's the best of all the Magic Fountain series.

'Magic Fountain' is an excellent mid-garden or back-border perennial, & makes fine cut flowers. Its toxicity usually discourages rabbits & deer.

The one drawback is that delphiniums are short-lived. After three or four years the expanding clump will have badly tired & no longer bloom well. Autumn or late-winter division can be attempted to revitalize a large clump, but it is usually better to start new clumps from scratch. A similar flower which would be far more longlived & which can also take a little bit of shade would be European Monkshood.

   



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