Delphiniums, family and fun

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Storm in a tea cup.

All the shortest day activity overshadowed the fact that we have a new dog. Friday afternoon was spent preparing the garden to receive a 6 month old Alsatian cross (mongrel) puppy. Well, it's a bit late to for taking outdoor shots now but some of the NANSQ (New Zealand quilting body of which Janice is the newsletter editor) committee members who are also in Wellington for the meeting want to see images of the dog. I'd better get some!

Why have I titled this blog "Storm in a Tea Cup"?

Because the puppy was called Storm but I think it is far too gentle for that name so have instead called it "Tea Cup". It has already been shortened to "T" when training

The Shortest Day

Today is the 21st June - Winter solstice in New Zealand and Summer Solstice in Canada when Anne Cook carries on her tradition of working all day (about 19 daylight hours) in the garden.

A few years ago Janice and visited Anne on the longest day and helped her with this feat.

Today I'm going to work in sympathy with her, only for me it is the shortest day and only from 7.45am until about 5.15 pm.

Janice is away in Wellington for the week end and I've decided to build a new clothes line. The images are of progress throughout the day. By lunch time I had the posts laid out and ready to place in the hole and ram tight with soil. After lunch I took a trip into Wanganui to buy clothes line chord and hardware.

The posts were then stayed for soil ramming. I'd earlier in the day trimmed a few large branches off the cherry tree to make room for one of the posts

Interruption!! Nick Churton, our neighbour's grandson, has come to dig a pond in our paddock. This will be able to be seen form our dining room. I have to break off from the washing line to supervise.

Ok, too busy to take photos until near dark. Posts are rammed in and lines up.

And that was that. 5:50pm and too dark to continue. Just the tidying up bits and pieces to do in the morning. That's hopeful as there is some heavy rain forecast. With luck it wont arrive until morning tea and I can get some pathways started.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


At this time of year, when northern hemisphere gardens have delphiniums either blooming or heading that way gardeners often write with questions about how well, or not, their delphiniums are growing.

Usually they have been growing well but as the flower spikes reach, say a metre tall, we begin to get reports of lower leaves dying, or a paleness of colour in the leaves or maybe short, thin stems. What is causing all this? Is the question, and how do I fix it?

I thought it may be a good idea to run through a few common problems and their cures, for the benefit of any reading this blog who may like to know.

It will help to list those conditions that delphiniums like and to also tell you that they are gross feeders. Not gross feeders as in gluttonous individuals eating a hundred and forty four giantburgers in the minimum time possible and slopping tomato sauce over a “once white” tee shirt t-shirt; no, not at all. There’s a big difference. Delphiniums don’t like hamburgers, or tomato sauce for that matter. What they do like however is plenty of food, particularly when they first begin new growth. They like plenty of NPK. Go more heavily on the nitrogen at the start, gradually easing off and putting more emphasis on the potash as the stems grow tall and the buds begin to form. If you have access to animal manure you probably won’t be able to give them too much no matter how hard you try. If you are relying mainly on chemical fertilisers then using a 12-10-10 fertiliser at rates just as much as you dare will give great results. As a rule of thumb feed delphiniums about 1 ½ times what you would feed your roses.

Be sure your soil ph is above 6 and preferably closer to 7. If not add lime, lots of it.

Delphiniums also like that ideal type of soil that most growing books and planting instructions demand ......well drained, holds lots of moisture, doesn’t dry out too quickly, doesn’t go puggy and get too wet, not too fine, not too course and obviously after all this, it should be covered in at least 2 inches of good, rich, brown, friable organic mulch. If your soil is like this then I’ll send a truck right over. If not then just be sure that the ph is high, the plants don’t get waterlogged and they have plenty of tucker, plenty of tucker, plenty of tucker.

If mulching, make it thick. If mulching with wood products then be sure to add more nitrogen.

Delphiniums like lots of sun so give them plenty of room in a sunny spot.

Delphiniums do not like lots of heat so if your summer temperatures regularly exceed 25 degC then plant them in a position that gets afternoon shade.

Keep them damp, but not wet.

Place slug pellets (or sharp sand or something similar) on the crowns to deter slugs and snails.

Remember, feed them often and well, water them often and well, sing to them often and well and to enjoy them. If you can’t sing well – practice.

Beware of the wind. Delphiniums are a bit like you, they enjoy a good steak and remember, if your delphiniums don't look like these you need to give them more fertiliser. If they still don't perform, buy some of our seed. You will really see the difference.

Take care. Have a great time in the garden.