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      U.P. Gardening Tip - August 5, 2009

      Recently, I had the opportunity to visit seven Marquette area gardens on the Marquette Beautification and Restorative Committee TMs Annual Garden Tour. I was astounded and humbled as always by the sheer beauty of our Upper Michigan gardens.

      I have to remark on one of the public sites that volunteers maintain. It TMs the flower bed in front of the Welcome to Marquette sign drivers see when ambling east on Hwy 41/28 towards Lake Superior. The spot is near where this HWY divides and separates through downtown Marquette. Travelers heading east will see a beautiful well-kept flower bed with very tall blue delphiniums swaying in the off shore Lake Superior wind.

      To see them from the highway is nothing like seeing the flowers up close. On the garden tour, I walked right up next to them. It was a visual and olfactory treat. It brought back many memories of summers spent at Blue Beauty Cottage in northern Wisconsin. My maternal grandmother often sheltered me there during the summers of my childhood. She had a tall garden of blue delphiniums, hollyhocks, morning glory vines and snapdragons. The delphinium became my favorite because its petals were the color of her Finnish cerulean-blue eyes. I remember one summer bouquet where she placed cut blue delphiniums (she called them Larkspur and purred the name) and red gladiolus in a glass gallon pickle jar. It was stunning. I had told her: If I was a bumble bee, I would faint.

      Delphiniums are a rather fussy plant to grow but well worth it. Because the delphinium produces tall spikes of heavy showy flowers, their stems can weaken. They are hollow and can snap in half from high winds. Support these flowers against a stone wall, side of a garage or fence. Delphiniums need full sun but are not drought resistant. They need moist soil, monthly composting and a feed of 5-10-5 fertilizer every year. They lose their vitality after 3 years and need to be re-seeded. Propagate by cutting, careful division or seed planting. Bumble bees and butterflies also pollinate these magnificent blues.

      TV6 Contributor - Donna Campbell, Master Gardener

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