Redolent of Arts and Crafts gardens, delphiniums stood sentinel in lush Edwardian herbaceous borders in those legendary hot summers before the First World War.
Appropriately an important collection of Delphiniums is at Godinton House, Kent, whose garden was designed by that great Edwardian architect and garden designer, Sir Reginald Blomfield (1856-1942) in 1902. This year’s Delphinium Festival runs from the 17th June to the 26th June. The gardens are open from 1pm-8pm for picnics in the evenings.
In June the walled garden brims with a lavish display of a thrilling variety of delphiniums in a host of different colours – azure blue, pale powdery pinks, cream and silvery shades. Blue Lagoon, Garden Party, Pink Ruffles, Summerfield Oberon and Vespers to name just a few of the delphiniums. ‘All delphiniums need is food and slug control at the beginning of the year’ says Viv Hunt, Head Gardener at Godinton adding ‘and of course staking. We weave sturdy supports using hazel twigs and string. By the time they are in full flower you can’t see the stakes’. They are invaluable plants for adding height to a border in whatever size garden, palatial or cottagey.
Some of Godinton’s delphiniums are lovingly tended by the Delphinium Society, the remainder by Viv and her team. ‘Few plants contribute so much to the beauty of the garden as these fine plants’ wrote William Robinson in his celebrated ‘The English Garden’.
Viv’s Top Tips for Growing Delphiniums
It is imperative to deal with slugs and snails early in the season from February onwards. ‘They will be underground nibbling at the buds or crowns as the plants grow’. Once a week we put down one pellet per sq metre, a little distance from the plant so that it entices the slugs away. This season, the mild winter has meant that we are inundated with slugs so we are having to go round twice a week with pellets’.
Once the delphiniums emerge they don’t need protection.
A word of advice, ‘Often people think that their delphiniums have rotted off over winter but it is more than likely that the slugs have got to them before the plants emerge’.
Feed once in March with a spoonful of blood, fish and bone scattered around each plant.
Mulch them after first flowering. ‘They want a lot out of the soil so it is important to keep them healthy’.
‘If they are in a border, mark their position so that you know where they are as without a doubt when they die down in the winter you will forget where they are. We put little sticks on either side of the plant plus a bit of grit’.
Cut the plants down, put a mulch around them and keep a beady eye out for slugs.
One last tip: when buying from a nursery or garden centre be careful that you don’t get a biennial.
Highlights of Godinton’s Delphinium Festival include:
19th June The Delphinium Society Day 1pm-4pm
Expert advice and plant sales with Delphinium Society Members on hand to answer questions.
22nd June – Jazz Evening 7pm – 9 pm. Picnics from 6pm. Tickets £12.00 Booking recommended.
24th June – Painting Workshop. £20 a place, contact Kaidy on 07796945223 to book.