Friday, June 29, 2012

The Moonlight Larkspur

It was 25 years ago last week that Jim and Jenny Archibald flew into Denver on their first expedition to Western America: how do I know this so precisely? Because the arrived the day my daughter, Eleni, was born (June 17, 1987)...we shall not dwell on a few of the amusing and not so amusing ramifications of this conjunction.

Suffice it to say that I was rather torn, shall we say, between my fatherly responsibilities and my pressing desire to host the premier plant explorers of the last half of the century. I couldn't WAIT to show off Denver Botanic Gardens to Jim and Jenny. And when I finally managed to shepherd them down there, I remember only two things: it took them forever to get down to the Rock Alpine Garden because Jim was so entranced with our Spuria collections (which we subsequently flushed), declaring it the best thing we had at the time...and seemingly the only plant in the Rock Alpine Garden which captivated Jim was Delphinium semibarbatum (better known by the zippy name Delphinium zalil) which I had obtained from Index Seminum. I had a stand of a couple plants forming astonishing golden candelabrums. These persisted for a number of years and they were at their apogee for Jim and Jenny exactly a quarter century ago...they persisted a few years and one day I realized they were gone....I regret that there are quite a few sad stories along these lines in my resume...but this one has a sort of happy sequel. Read on!

Last year we obtained seed from a seed company (and Mike Bone and I collected seed on the Kazakhstan steppe in 2010): I assume this accession was from the seed company, although I recall there were a few last blossoms on the plants where we collected seed and they were this same moonlight tint. Mike Kintgen planted these out in the new grassy section of the Steppe part of the Rock Alpine Garden, not far from where I planted them some 26 or 27years ago. This form appears to be a bit smaller, and a good deal paler than my bright golden yellow gem. But truth be said, this pale yellow color is easier to use in the garden, and very lovely indeed.

So once again, the zany, zesty, and yes--zippy--Zalil is back! Why do I not hear clarions blasting? Drums rolling? Why is the world so much more interested in Angelina Jolie's anorexic midriff than in the moonlight (and sometimes golden) larkspur of the wild, windy Steppes of Asia?

I will tell you why, friends....the vast unwashed οι πολλοι (hoi polloi) are hopeless!

(P.S. We still need and want the deep golden form: help me get it Puhleeaase!)


  1. Looks like Chilterns might have the yellow form, judging from the photo on their site (assuming the color is correct).


  2. Thanks for the heads up! Will check it out immediately!


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