Delphinium nuttallii

30 Apr


We have several species of native Delphinium in the northwest, but this little guy is rapidly becoming my favorite. I also have D. trollifolium, one of the parents of the modern hybrids that gets tall, and likes its feet wet. I grow that one in a kiddy pool that stays wet year round. But this is the “Upland Larkspur” that inhabits open drier spots on both sides of the mountains, from west side prairies to east side sage brush flats and openings in the ponderosa woodlands. I’ve seen them grow as tall as two feet in open prairies (well, assuming it wasn’t the very similar D. menziesii), but in a pot with as much drainage as I can manage, it seems to prefer staying more compact and around 12-18 inches in full flower. This stockier aspect is nice, looks great, but this spring I decided to put it up on a plant stand both for extra drainage, and so the flowers were higher for the hummers.

Although I have yet to see the hummers use my potted one, I have seen one being visited in the mountains. I believe the tiny little hummer I saw visiting one on a path in the Hurricane Ridge area was a calliope, but I couldn’t see enough of it to be certain. It visited every single open flower on two plants nearly side by side, before chipping at me and flying off. Hopefully my garden potted plant is as attractive to them, when I’m not looking.

So far this plant has been willing to self seed. Since a full scape can produce and amazing amount of seed and I still want my mother plant to develop more, I tend to cut all but one or two seed pods off. I’ll probably continue to do this for quite a few years. There really is no reason to produce tons of seeds, as I don’t really have a lot of places to put them. This is one of the plants I want to develop a dry bed for, the question is where since sun is at such a premium here, and dry sun like this even more so. Pots are relatively easy with this species, so it’s an easy one to leave in its pot.

If you have a sunny dry area, especially a bit of a bank or slope, consider this in a drought tolerant border. It would look spectacular with other low prairie species like Roemer’s fescue, graceful cinquefoil, and fleabanes, sedums and other low growing drought tolerant plants.


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