May 17, 2016

How to Grow Larkspur From Seed

My Georgia O'Keefe version of larkspur.

Purple larkspur falls into that in-between color category of is it blue, or is it purple?  It doesn't matter I guess....both hues are welcome in my garden. What I DO know is that its color beautifully echoes the intriguing lavender backside of my coral poppies, 


and it's ferny foliage is the perfect delicate foil to the poppy's bold blue-green leaves. A wonderful pairing of two garden self-seeders that share most of the same requirements to bloom and perform in true cottage garden style. So as a follow-up to my last post Larkspur Lessons ,


(and because I figured a way around my blog glitch) I thought you might like a 2016 seasonal update on whether or not I actually LEARNED the lessons larkspur taught and, more importantly, EXECUTED them in my garden. Plus some additional tips and tricks to successfully grow larkspur, from seed to stalk, in your own garden beds.

DRUM ROLL PLEASE!!!

Mark your prime larkspur (favorite color and form) from which to collect seed while they are still in bloom. If you wait, you will forget...all dry seed heads look alike.

I did INDEED learn AND execute the lessons in my previous post. Now for some additional info on the how to of growing larkspur in your own garden:

 
1.  Start it from seed....preferably FRESH seed from a friend. Most of us who grow larkspur will have much to share.  (I haven't had great luck growing purchased seed.) One seldom sees larkspur starts in nurseries...it has a deep tap root and doesn't transplant or move easily. If you do want to relocate or share seedlings, do so when they are very small, before its roots are established and it is small enough to adapt. Ideally, sow them where you want them to grow. 


2.  Sow seed when they would naturally self sow by dropping their seed...about 3-4 weeks from now. As an insurance policy, for a special variety or some such, you can sow additionally in the fall (they need cool weather to germinate), but don't wait until spring in Oklahoma, unless you are prepared for disappointment. Heat sets in to quickly for them to mature.



 Larkspur and Asiatic lilies make a wonderful combination.


3.  Larkspur, if not crowded, given enough sun, and not over-fertilized, will reward you will tall strong stems, perfect for the back of the border or amid flowering shrubs that will hide its sometimes ugly legs. This positioning also provides its towering form protection and support...to lean or nestle into other plants...


that will help shelter it from high wind or rain or inattentive, heavy-footed gardeners. This and planting less densely keep me from having to stake too much early on.


Talk about the quintessential cottage flower and cottage garden style. Look at this story book setting of a friend of mine...and the contribution of the larkspur in the surrounding garden beds.

4. If you have a large stand of this towering lovely, don't allow ALL of it to go to seed or you will be overrun with seedlings that you will then laboriously have to thin or remove. Deadhead most, and leave but a few to sire progeny for next year. 


After they have finished flowering and the select few marked to set seed, feel free to pull out the rest and toss in the compost heap. This will improve air circulation as heat sets in, and, in general, will give your garden a much tidier appearance. This is easily done after a rain (assuming it rains of course), when their stalks will come out root and all with little resistance.


Once they are established you will have them reliably year after year.  Twenty-six years later I am still enjoying those I planted originally, as a gift from a gardening friend. Some years there numbers are huge, others less so, but always abundant.


In fact, you will find they begin to show up in the oddest of places as they seed with abandon, remarkably unfussy about the quality of the soil or site. I am most fond of the purple....the most prolific.....but white and pink also show up for the spring party, though in smaller numbers. Don't hesitate to cut them...


to bring inside.  Lovely in the vase with yellows, or pinks...Roses or dill or lilies or daisies. And so very easy you simply must grow them at least once in your gardening life.

 

Please be on the lookout for the June 2016 issue of SOUTHERN LIVING MAGAZINE and a five page story on the evolution of my back gardens. I am excited to tell you I wrote the story (in addition to pruning all the boxwood, WHEW!). Subscribe here or look for it on newsstands and in stores on May 20, 2016.



 

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