Photographs by Sabina Rüber
Consolida ajacis 'Misty Lavender'
Consolida regalis 'Blue Cloud'
Consolida ajacis 'Exquisite Series'
Known in Victorian times to represent fickleness, larkspurs are wonderful, willowy plants in colours that range from sky-blue and rose-pink to pure white. The name is widely used to cover both perennial delphiniums as well as the annual consolida family, both of which can be grown from seed.
Focusing on the annual larkspur, which is guaranteed to flower the same year, the more traditional, densely-flowered types of Consolida ajacis (also known as C. ambigua) are great for cutting. The well known ‘Giant Imperial’ group has rather stiff spikes of double flowers, available in seed mixes with a range of colours. If you like to know exactly the colours you are growing, single varieties such as ‘White King’ and ‘Dark Blue’ are available. Moving away from these traditional delphinium colours, I love ‘Misty Lavender’ whose flowers are in that dusky, antique pinky-grey that is so fashionable at the moment. But my real favourites are the more delicate, ethereal forms from the species Consolida regalis, which are multi-branching, bushy plants with graceful single flowers that float and bob about in the breeze rather than stand to attention other larkspurs – more like a gypsophila than a delphinium. ‘Blue Cloud’ and ‘Snow Cloud’ are the varieties most widely available, and as their names suggest, they grow into billowing clouds through which other plants can clamber and mingle.
Larkspur aren’t the easiest plants to raise from seed as germination can be a bit hit and miss: these are plants that don’t need warmth to kick start the germination process – indeed the seeds can benefit from a blast in the fridge for a week or two before sowing. The most hassle-free way is to sow direct in late summer, leaving the seeds to their own devices to over-winter and germinate in spring. Alternatively sow under cover in early spring, sowing thinly on the surface of the compost and covering lightly with vermiculite, germinating them in a cool greenhouse at temperatures of 16-18C.
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