Plants that reach for the skies!

 In Hardy perennials

Plants that reach for the skies! It’s the stuff of chocolate box lids. But there’s no denying that spires of Delphinium, hollyhocks and lupins certainly grab your attention!

Now these are not the sort of plants that you stick in, forget and miraculously they perform.

No these need a bit of coaxing and can be a challenge. There’s nothing wrong with that and we all like a bit of a challenge!

When you succeed and have dreamy spires of Delphiniums and spectacular lupins you can rightly puff out your chest and boast that ‘I grew those’!

Let’s take a look at each of these plants that reach for the skies in turn.




delphinium, tall flowers, plants that reach for the skies

Tall Delphiniums

So need a bit of extra care. The soil for them needs to be good. It needs to be a deep well drained loam. It needs plenty of organic matter added regularly too.

But don’t despair if your patch of dirt doesn’t quite match this. You can do something about it!

Drainage can be improved with the addition of coarse grit. Don’t use sand as that can make things worse since it is too fine.

Garden compost dug in will help no end.

Better still use some good old fashioned well rotted farm yard manure. But wait a minute, how do you know when it is ‘well rotted’? Well the easiest way is to check for smell, or at least the lack of it. Well rotted manure has an earthy smell and shouldn’t smell of urine! It should be stacked for around a year before using. In many ways it is probably easier to buy it in the bag in the already rotted form.



Slug and Snail control

Delphiniums must taste like caviar to slugs and snails! It’s especially those new soft shoots as they emerge from the soil in spring that they go for. Delicate looking shoots such as these are best protected by scattering slug pellets around them in early spring. Use pellets that contain ferric phosphate which is safe for wildlife. Remember to do this every year in March and April as that is when the damage is done.

Whilst you’re about it treat Hosta, Gypsophila and Lobelia too. Once the shoots are a few centimetres high, they are generally no longer at risk.

Of course Delphiniums will need support and staking. They can grow to 2-3 metres high! With that height it goes without saying that you will want to plant these at the back of borders. And in a sheltered spot to produce plants that reach for the skies!




Lupins, West Country Lupins

West Country Lupins

But what of lupins, are they any easier?

You will need similar soil conditions.  And will have to protect them from those slugs and snails too.

However because they are shorter, you can plant them in a wider range of places. And those places can perhaps be also a little windy.

You will need to keep a sharp watch out for greenfly. And if your plants get them it is not hard to see them! Greenfly [aphids] that attack the soft tips of lupins are big…seriously big!

Catch them early enough and you can squash them.  But leave it too late and you will need to use an insecticide [chemical or organic]. Miss them and your towering stems soon become distorted and the flower buds drop off before opening.

I’d especially recommend growing modern varieties of lupins. Those bred here in the West Country by appropriately called West Country Lupins are truly superior to all others. They are substantially improved and have exciting and striking colour combinations. These are plants that reach for the skies too!



Tall flowers, hollyhocks

Tall hollyhocks on waste ground

Well hollyhocks are a bit of an enigma. They shun the best growing conditions where nutrients and moisture are plentiful. In fact the best hollyhocks are those growing in a crack in the path! Or the joint between drive and wall or even on a rubble filled piece of waste ground!

These are plants that have chosen their own place to grow, germinated and flourished because they just felt like it.

The chances are that if we planted a hollyhock in the same place it would turn up it’s toes and die. So what is the answer? How can we grow plants that reach for the skies? Well, study the conditions that suit them and try your utmost to replicate them in your own garden!

For hollyhocks that means being very mean to them!

Forget the well rotted compost, handful of bone meal and all that stuff.

Choose a fiercely drained spot where the soil is as poor as a church mouse! Then add some rubble! Make sure that this is where there is a chance your plants will catch every ray of the sun there is. And water only until each plant is established.

Here, in these kind of conditions the bete noire of all hollyhocks- rust- is oddly absent. Spoil these plants with rich soil and feed and the fungal rust will ruin them.



When to plant

Spring is the best time to plant Delphinium, lupins and hollyhock.

And late spring is the right time to sow seeds if you are going to raise your own plants.

With some good growing on your part your garden too could look like a chocolate box lid!


If you want to plant other things to add height to your garden then you might want to read this.


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