Gardening: Larkspur to the rescue

Nancy Szerlag
Special to The Detroit News

The OPC Stone House Garden made it through the garden walk and by all accounts it was a great success. Folks loved the color and diversity of plants.

Larkspur is rarely available for sale as transplants.

The purple garden is always the fave of visitors and this year it was a challenge due again to the weather.  The warm season annuals sat and sulked after planting, producing little in the way of color I had expected. However, my reseeders – the purple larkspur – also known as annual delphinium, saved the day.  Larkspur also comes in white and pink, but purple seems to dominate.

Larkspur is rarely available for sale at garden centers as transplants, as it has a long taproot and does not transplant well. If purchased it must be bought and planted as tiny seedlings in order to thrive.  Larkspur is a short season, early blooming annual that dies out in the heat of summer. 

The larkspur in the OPC garden came from seed given to me by my friend Joyce Bonesteel of Arcadia, who helped me garden when I lived in the country, which makes me love it all the more because it brings back the memories of our special friendship. 

My secret to growing larkspur from seed is to plant it in the fall. By planting, I mean scattering the seed on the surface of the soil. Mother Nature does the rest. Once it’s established I just let it go to seed. 

Folks who viewed the purple garden last week saw, along with the flowering plants, lots of seedlings they may have mistaken as weeds. I had thought of placing little signs saying, “These are seedlings, not weedlings” in the planting beds.

Those little plants are Verbena bonariensis that also reseed in our garden. They’re wonderful tall see-through plants that produce 2-inch purple clusters of tiny flowers that will take the stage as the larkspur fade and put on a fabulous show from July through frost and are beloved by bees and butterflies.

Other reseeders that will make a good showing in the OPC Stone House Garden this summer are cosmos, cleome, snapdragons and bidens.

There’s an area behind the brick wall of the garden that I now call the “relaxed garden”. On the garden tour we signed it, The Wild Garden – A Work in Progress.

There’s room to play back there and knowing there is still time to plant seeds I’m going to do just that. We may end up with a good fall show.

Nancy Szerlag is a master gardener and a Metro Detroit freelance writer. Her column appears Fridays in Homestyle. To ask her a question go to and click on Ask Nancy. You can also read her previous columns at