On Delphiniums (blue)

I’m having trouble with the current book. I’m at a crossroad in the plot and I can’t decide which way to go. At the moment, both roads seem to lead to a quagmire.

So I’ve been thinking about flowers, specifically about delphiniums.

When I was a child, I had a book of poems by  A.A. Milne, “When We Were Very Young.” In that book was a poem about a dormouse:

There once was a Dormouse who lived in a bed
Of delphiniums (blue) and geraniums (red)
And all the day long he’d a wonderful view
of geraniums (red) and delphiniums (blue)

 Now as a city child, I had seen geraniums—they were popular plants in pots on window sills—but I had never even heard of delphiniums. I’d never heard of a dormouse either, but it looked like a cute little creature.

Delphiniums, however, sounded extraordinary. It’s an aristocratic sort of name, unlike daisy or rose. And they were blue.

Blue was (and is) my favorite color, but I’d never seen a blue flower. Not really blue. As I discovered when I grew up, blue flowers are unusual, and most of the ones people call blue are really sort of purplish. So delphiniums remained magical in my mind.

When I eventually had a yard where I could garden, I tried to grow delphiniums. I tried over and over again. Never successfully.

It was very frustrating, because the seed catalogues had all these gorgeous pictures of delphiniums with romantic names like Lancelot and Guinevere, varieties that were expected to grow six feet tall. Someplace those plants must flourish well enough to be photographed, but not in my garden.

I suspect delphiniums are one of those plants that are much happier in the cool summers of England than they are in my hot summers. Mine languished and pined and then started to perk up in September, which didn’t give them enough growing time before the frosts cut them down.

On the other hand, I never needed to stake them. I read a mystery story once where one of the characters ran out in a storm to tie the delphiniums to stakes before the wind blew them down.  I don’t remember anything else about the book, but that scene stuck in my memory.  A consolation, I suppose, for my failures with delphiniums.

The photograph, from Creative Commons, was taken by Steve Daniels in Cornwall. Cool summers. I can’t tell, but I don’t think the flowers in the background are geraniums, though they are the right shade of red.

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