Larkspur: My Perennial Annual

I’ve made so many gardening gaffes, and  spent so much money on plants and seeds that I might as well have rolled up those dollars and lit the grill with them. That’s not to say that all my experiments in horticulture flat-out died — I wrote about my losing battle with Russian Comfrey here:

So it’s with pride and bemusement that I’m going to talk about one of my successes: Larkspur.

I bought a package of seeds seven (eight?) years ago and blithely threw them around near the front door. Nothing happened, not one single hopeful seedling. I shrugged it off with that summer’s other failures, and walked around to the rear of the house to smell my roses.

The next spring I noticed tiny lacy fronds peeping up that didn’t look like any of the vigorous weeds greeting spring with their usual enthusiasm. I decided to leave them there. A month later I had a solid 2’X6′ patch of waving larkspur in shades of blue from cobalt to baby, with a few pink beauties here and there. Folks, don’t do as I did: read your seed packets.

“Plants seeds in late fall or early spring when weather is cool.” Like annual poppies, larkspur (consolia ajacis) needs to be cold, even frozen before it germinates. And because the self-scattered seeds like a few months nap under a blanket of snow, my larkspur has greeted me every June since.

I learned about the poppies in exactly the same scenario, by the way. You’re probably thinking: “Well, duh! No wonder this clueless woman makes so many mistakes — she won’t even read the package!” You’d be 80% right, but trust me, I’m improving in this direction. Twenty five years of horticultural disaster will pound in a few lessons:

  • I lust after my father’s magnificent delphiniums. Fifteen examples of pricey failure-to-thrive was what drove me to try larkspur. Larkspur works for me, delphiniums don’t.
  • Never accept a garlic chive plant from a gardening neighbor, unless you want to till over your entire garden every single year. They spread, they smell if you’ve got a hundred hardy plants, and even tilling won’t eradicate them.
  • Always accept any other plant from the same neighbor.
  • Hybrid tea roses aren’t enough bang for the buck, and rarely smell like roses.
  • I suck at growing vegetables, so except for my lone tomato plant, and lots of herbs, I’m just gonna hit the farmer’s market.
  • I love growing annuals from seed, especially if they’re reliable and I can identify them.




And Morning Glories. These are three more varieties I can count on.

I love growing flowers by direct seeding — it’s just taken me way too long to form my list of Old Reliables. I add zinnias to that list but this summer I forgot my zinnies. I’ll regret that come August. Talk about cheap and cheerful!

I’m fond of the varieties of vintage flower and vegetable seeds from Renees Garden Seeds, formerly Shepherd’s Seeds. Quality is excellent, the selection is very cool, and the packets are so pretty!

What are your Old Reliables from a seed package? What am I missing out on?

I’m off to the Farmer’s Market in the ‘Ville. I hope that this year I’ll find more farmers and fewer jewelery stands.



Filed under A Couple of Bucks, Free, Growing things, Home, On the Street Where I Live

3 responses to “Larkspur: My Perennial Annual

  1. Caro

    Good morning,

    Good to know about the larkspur liking the cold cycle first, we planted a whole packet and have seen nothing yet, so I eagerly await next season.

    I guess I’ll live and learn as to the garlic chives. A friend recently gave me several plugs that we plonked them down in the herb area of the garden, and they are a little spindly looking at the moment.( I love them in stirfries, and tuna salad, with fresh dill.)

    Our standbys, are dill ( self seeds beautifully) and oregano, once started, there seems to be no stopping it.
    Also have had good luck with dragonflowers and coreopsis. Both started out as a single plant 4 years ago and now have a full patch of each, one out front and the other filling in the back of the hosta bed.

    I have always planted more perennial plugs, roots, bulbs,etc… than seeds. This year was the year of the seed, 2 types of sunflowers, coneflowers, black eyed susans, larkspur, trailing soapwort, baby’s breath,a wildflower mix, ( as well as 6 Blue Angel hostas, 18 gladiolas, 6 Dahlias, 6 impatiens, 12 petunias, 3 caladiums, 2 astilbes , a balloon flower and 3 hanging baskets of wave petunias …. what can I say, sometimes I like instant gratification!! 🙂 )

  2. Hey Caro:

    I’m a sucker for instant gratification too, and I know I’ll be picking up a flat of something in the next couple of weeks.

    But watch those garlic chives like a hall monitor! And yes, coreopsis is fabulous.

  3. Beverly Dempsey

    Hey, thanks. Yes, yes, your advice is sound. But more, you brightened my sleepless night with your completely comfortable blog. I really appreciated your writing style, and I learned something to boot.

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