Delphiniums, family and fun

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Alice Artindale

Wednesday 25th August

Answering emails from people interested in delphiniums is often a major part of my day. A number of questions come up regularly so I’ve decided to post these questions and answers, or maybe a summary of them, to this blog from time to time.

Yesterday we had an enquiry from someone wanting to trace the old cultivar, Alice Artindale. This delphinium is double flowered with small florets that can look similar to a reflex chrysanthemum, only they are a blue/mauve colour never seen in chrysanthemums. The florets are compact and can be widely spaced up the stem.

This delphinium was created the same year as Jim Mann Taylor. I’ve no idea when that was but his parents were married in 1925. I know this because Jim has a genealogy web site at: and tells us that delphinium “Alice Artindale has stood the test of time. Ted Barker of William Artindale and Son spotted the unusual plant and it was named after the boss's wife Alice”. There is an image of delphinium Alice Artindale on the web site of Dr David Bassett at

Like all double flowered delphiniums Alice can be something of a chameleon and David’s image looks quite different to that of Jim Mann Taylor’s on the NCCPG plant heritage web site at

Will the real Alice Artindale please take the stand!

Well, the question was “where can I buy plants of Alice Artindale?” I don’t know. I can do no better than refer you to the web site of the Delphinium Society and David and Jim at the web sites above.

If anyone knows Alice’s whereabouts could you please drop me a line or add a comment to this blog?

As I don't have an image of Alice Artindale this is a photo of our own Sarita. A double flowered delphinium similar in some respects to Alice.



Saturday, August 25, 2007

Getting back into it

Saturday 25th August

Today has been a day spent working on updating articles for the web site and writing promotion material for sellers of our seed and plants to use. Naturally I needed a few breaks and took time off this morning to quickly walk around the local Saturday market with Janice and then join our friends, Robert and Jennifer, for a cup of coffee (orange for me) and a game of crib at a local coffee house. I’m just back from the second break, a 38 minute bike ride, and procrastinating before getting ready to take Robert and Jennifer (again), who looked after aspects of our business while we were away last month, out for a thank-you dinner.

Six weeks away without much exercise turned a 35 minute bike ride into a 38 minute one. Mmmmm, there’s work to be done on that.

Speaking of work, Janice has been busy too, installing a new computer. The one in the packing shed finally gave up the ghost while we were away so my old machine will go up to the shed and I’ll have the new one. This is the first time I’ve ever had the new, high spec pc as it usually goes to Janice, who knows how to use these things.

This week has seen the taking of cuttings start in earnest, preparing for the new seed production season. We’re more than doubling the covered growing area this season, adding another 850 square metre plastic growing house which I hope will be completed in time to grow a seed crop before the end of summer. With the expansion of our delphinium plant business in New Zealand (mail order and to nurseries) plus the increase in seed production, this season may be a tad busy! Oh, I forgot to mention the returning of much of our land into native bush - we’re making a start on that this year too.

The image is a native wood pigeon, the Kereru, on the elm outside our living room. These birds love to perch on the trees around the house and in the native bush.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Delphiniums on Iron Mountain

One of the highlights of our trip to Oregon last month was a visit to Iron Mountain, near the town of Sisters in the Cascade mountain range. Alice Doyle of Loghouse plants had suggested we might just have the timing right and Stephen Murphy, a very good friend from Mt Vernon, drove me there while Janice was checking out the quilts in Sisters. Boy, did we have the timing right!
It was a hot, sunny morning and as we arrived and began wandering up to the alpine meadow it was obvious that there was much in flower. This image shows a mass of various delphinium species along with Indian Paintbrush (Castilleja) species, artemisia, myosotis and much more. Not being a great plantsman it was good to have Stephen's company and help with identification. There was only one down side to the trip. Here I am, quite fit from regular biking and walking and what do I do but pull a calf muscle before reaching the top...too much sitting in cars and planes I guess. This restricted me a little for the next week or so but didn't stop me having a great time in Mt Vernon that night when the whole town put on a fantastic fireworks display for us. I remember the date - July 4th.

Starting up

Spring has sprung in New Zealand. The willows are sprouting new leaves and the delphiniums are all shooting up like crazy. Janice and I are getting back to work after a five week trip which included the west coast of the USA, Canada and Europe, visiting clients who buy our seed, viewing the delphinium seedling trials at RHS Wisley, England and attending the wedding of a good friend in Montbrisson, France.

Amidst all the work we have returned to, Janice has convinced me that email newsgroups have now been superseded by blogs and that I should be offering discussion and answering grower questions in this medium now. This is the start. But first some bio:

In 1999, after growing cut flowers and plants for 20 years or so, Janice and I left our nursery in Tuakau, a small provincial town in New Zealand and came to Wanganui (still in the North Island of New Zealand, but further south) to see if we could exist solely by breeding delphiniums and producing seeds for sale on the world market.

The climate in Wanganui is extremely temperate and offers almost year round growing conditions. Delphinium plants have only a few weeks dormancy here (like 2 or three). The move has been very successful and we now have a well established delphinium seed business selling our high quality New Millennium Delphinium varieties to many of the best perennial plant suppliers and seed companies in the world, and also directly to gardeners everywhere. We have 2 permanent staff and this climbs to about 10 in the pollinating season (Dec to May) when we hand pollinate our delphiniums - very time consuming.

Janice and I have been fortunate to be able to establish a business that we both enjoy while being able to also enjoy family life and friendly people around the world - and still pursue our various hobbies too. Janice is a quilter, loves computers (yeah, weird!) and has her own, well established blog. I'm heavily involved in a relaxed and friendly, local Rotary club (yeah, weird too!), love playing the guitar, writing, gardening, travel and people. This blog will touch on all these things and no doubt more. Right now we are making plans for a new growing house that should be completed by the end of December, extending the house a little and producing our delphiniums. The Rotary club is producing a "Last Night of the Proms" concert in aid of "Women's Refuge Wanganui" which will raise around $10,000 to help women and families escape, or turn around, violent relationships. The concert is on September 15th and will be attended by the British High Commissioner to New Zealand.

We have a full life and love it.