delphiniumSpring Bulb Flowers February 2010

Nature’s true blue blooms provide design options that few other flowers can.

it’s all relative.  There are approximately 250 species in the Delphinium (del-FIN-ee-um) genus, but there are three main hybrid groups that are grown as cut flowers:
  • Delphinium Belladonna Group

  • Delphinium Pacific Hybrids

  • Delphinium Elatum Group

Each of these hybrids is a cross between D. elatum and one or more other species.

what about larkspurs? In the past, botanists included larkspurs in the Delphinium genus, but today larkspurs are classified in a separate genus, Consolida (con-SAW-li-da).

family tree.  Both the Delphinium and Consolida genera are members of the Ranunculaceae (buttercup/crowfoot) family and are closely re-lated to Aconitum (monkshood), Anemone, Aquilegia (columbine), Clematis, Helleborus, Nigella and Ranunculus (buttercup).

12-month supplies.  Hybrid Delphiniums are available year-round from a combination of domestic and Dutch suppliers; however, supplies are highest from May through October.

out of the blue.  All of these Delphinium hybrids are available in a range of blues, from light to dark (they are among nature’s few true blue flowers). Belladonna Delphiniums also come in white while Pacific Hybrid and Elatum Delphiniums also are available in white, cream, mauve, lavender and purple, with white, brown or black centers (eyes).

flowers and stems.  Belladonna Delphiniums are generally single flowered and have branched stems as tall as 3 feet. Pacific Hybrid and Elatum Delphinium varieties have either single or double blooms, and stems are nonbranched and as tall as 5 feet.

physical examination.  At least one or two flowers per stem should be fully open at the time of purchase. Look for signs of petal drop, especially on the lower portion of the bloom spikes; bruising; mold; or discolored foliage. Also, inspect the stems for thickness, sturdiness and broken tips.

five and dime.  Delphiniums are packaged in bunches of five or 10 stems, depending on type and grower. Check stem counts to ensure value and to make sure you have enough when specific quantities are needed.

issues with ethyl.  Delphiniums are extremely sensitive to ethylene gas, which causes rapid premature petal drop, so make sure your purchases are treated with an ethylene inhibitor at the grower level or during shipping.

health care.  Unpack Delphiniums immediately upon arrival in your store, and check flower quality. Next, remove lower foliage that will fall below the water line in a container, and rinse stems to remove dirt and debris. Then, recut stems with a clean, sharp blade, removing at least 1 inch of stem. Immediately after cutting, dip or place the stems into a hydration solution, to help the flowers take up water more quickly, then place them into a sterile storage container partially filled with properly prepared nutrient solution.

cool down.  Immediately after processing Delphiniums, place them into a floral cooler at 33 F to 35 F for at least two hours before arranging or selling them. Except for design time, keep these flowers refrigerated until they’re sold or delivered.

callous behavior.  Delphinium stems tend to callous over quickly, so recut them daily to maximize water uptake. Change the nutrient solution and wash containers every other day.

facts of life.  Delphiniums will last for four to 12 days at the consumer level, depending on hybrid and variety, care, environmental conditions and stage of maturity at the time of sale.

splint broken stems.  Delphinium stems tend to be fragile. If a stem becomes bent or collapses, insert a wire or stake into the stem (depending on the diameter of the stem) to repair the problem. No wilting will occur if a stem has not been punctured or severed.

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