Over the years, the gardens in front of the St Louis Art Museum have been exquisite. When in bloom, the Rocket Larkspur overwhelms the many visitors. The talented Patrick Greenwald shared with us how to create the look.
ESTABLISHING ROCKET LARKSPUR
Contributed by Patrick Greenwald – Horticulturist Forest Park Forever
Rocket Larkspur (Consolida ajacis):
“It’s like a fireworks display”, “I almost drove off the road…I wasn’t looking at my phone, I was looking at the flowers!” were a few of the comments I received from park visitor’s this past May as the Rocket Larkspur was in full bloom throughout the St. Louis Art Museum gardens. A staple of cottage gardens, Rocket larkspur is an easy to grow spring annual which puts on a glorious display of spikes of pink, white, blue and purple flowers for a month beginning in May. Native to southern Europe, it is best planted by seed in fall or it can also be planted in very early spring/late winter in well-drained soil.
For the SLAM garden, we mixed seeds of a Rocket larkspur colorful mix with fine moistened vermiculite. The vermiculite acts as a carrier that allows the seeds to be scattered less densely across a larger area. After lightly roughing up the soil with a rake, the vermiculite seed mixture was broadcast across the gardens, and with a soft garden rake, lightly raked into the soil and the soil settled with our feet. The garden was thoroughly watered in after seed dispersal.
If planted in the fall, small rosettes of plants will emerge in later summer/early fall and stay green all winter. They can appear like weeds, but do not pull them, for the larger the plants are in spring, the taller and larger the plants will be when they bloom in May. After resting through winter as a small rosette of foliage, the plants will begin to bolt as the days get longer the temperatures rise in Late March through April. Their tall flower stalks that can reach over 4ft tall in rich soil, appreciate the company of nearby plants for support on windy spring days.
Once they bloom in May, the plants will begin to brown as the weather gets hotter and drier, but do not be too quick to dead head these withering stalks. Let the seed pods fully dry and crack open, dispersing their seeds. This will ensure in every spot of disturbed soil nearby there will be another generation next season of these glorious flowers. Spring annual flower like these make great additions to perennial gardens, where colorful flowers such as larkspur can fill gaps between existing plant material.
Patrick Greenwald – Horticulturist Forest Park Forever