Mother’s Day is an easy one; brunch, manicures, flowers for the garden or a day spent enjoying the spring weather- but Father’s Day is always a challenge. While flowers aren’t the traditional choice for fathers, few folks can resist the dazzle of delphiniums. As a cut flower in a vase or bought as a strikingly tall plant for the perennial garden, this bold bloom will trump anything bought in a box and wrapped with a bow this Father’s Day. Surprise him with flowers, perhaps for the first time, and he won’t be disappointed with delphiniums.
A true native American wildflower, almost 300 species can be found growing in North America. A member of the buttercup family, several different species have become popular with floral designers for their uniquely-shaped blossoms and imposing size. The traditionally named delphinium has a straight stem that reaches between 2 to 4 feet in length and has beautiful, blue bobbing flowers circling all the way to the top. The name delphinium comes from the Latin word for “dolphin,” which refers to the curved shaped of the nectar spur behind each of the individual blooms on the stem. This unique adaptation evolved with pollinators specific to the areas in which each species grows, but most are easily pollinated by local bumblebees.
Other species and newer cultivars come in white, purple, pink, and even red and yellow, but few flowers are as true blue as this one. So rare is this azure hue in flowers that the name given to the chemical pigmentation that causes the color blue in plants (much like chlorophyll creates the color green) is named delphinidin, after this flower.
The common name “larkspur” is sometimes used to identify certain species of delphiniums, but actually refers to an annual species in the genus Consolida. Similar in floral appearance, the leaves of the larkspur are fine and frilly, while the delphinium’s foliage is a deeply lobed and glossy green in the shape of a hand. Mixing them with the lighter-leafed larkspur or Misty Blue Limonium, along with asters or eryngium make for a whimsical, wildflower look. Add snapdragons or lady’s mantle for an English garden feel. As a cut flower, these stems will last for a week or more. In the garden, you can count on these perennials coming up every year in June- just in time for Father’s Day.
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