How the delphinium x belladonna became the Deschutes County flower

  • SPLURGE: Walden candle in black ( ), left; SAVE: Sedona candle in smoke, right, ( ).
    (terrain; Urban Outfitters)

It is time to revisit an old garden friend, delphinium x belladonna.

We had a long visit with it in 2016 when it was, along with 250 of its family members, declared the 2016 Perennial of the Year.

The renewed interest is the result of an email from Nate Pedersen, a Deschutes Public Library community librarian. He forwarded two articles from a 1925 edition of The Bend Bulletin, discovered by staff member Erin Weaver. We agreed that the historical tidbit needed to be shared, and what better timing than when gardening decisions are being made.

As the story goes: Once upon a time in the small town of Bend, Deschutes County, Oregon, population 7,759 (census from 1924) the civic league decided Bend should have an official city flower.

The league committee suggested “the pink clarkia, the calendula and the delphinium belladonna as best adapted to and best typifying Bend.”

The press release reads on: “The movement for a city flower is in line with the work of city beautification that the league has been carrying on since its organization. It is one with the flower show put on yearly by the league, and the flower show has beyond a doubt been one of the greatest influences for lawn and garden beautifying.

Aside from all this, an official flower for Bend that can be the dominant note in floral displays, as well as in home gardens will not be without its advertising value.

With this in mind, it is important that the flower selected should be the one that the majority truly favors. It’s another election where a big vote is required.

So be sure to clip your ballot, printed on Page 1 of today’s Bulletin, and send it in according to directions printed on the voting coupon.

The election closes on Saturday, April 11, so don’t put off voting too long.”

There you have it. Exciting local election forthcoming in 1925 Bend development.

I clicked on the second forwarded article written two weeks later, and there it was in big, bold headlines — the results of the election. A total of 54 votes were cast with the following results.

Delphinium came in first with 15 votes, calendula, 13, pink clarkia, 12. There were two write-ins, scarlet phlox and carnation.

As you might suspect with all elections, there might have been a little hanky-panky going on (my assessment of the results). The article did recognize that one ballot contained 5 votes from the same family. The article did go on to point out 21, or more than half of the votes, were clipped from The Bulletin, showing that a majority of the persons interested in the subject were Bulletin readers.

“The committee urges that all mature growers in Bend to plant as much of the delphinium this year as possible.” The following was a little blurred, but my interpretation was that the committee would try to make special arrangements for securing the seed at a low cost.

There you have it: a tidbit of gardening history from 1925.

I know I feel enthused about adding some delphinium to my garden.

I think we should start a campaign to honor our city forefathers by planting more delphiniums this spring.

Delphinium x belladonna are the more frost hardy variety and recommended for zones 3 through 7. They are also the variety most available at local nurseries and garden centers.

Delphiniums can be plagued with a plant problem called powdery mildew, which is caused by excess humidity and poor air circulation. In many cases, the white mildew is caused from overhead watering systems or irrigating too late in the day.

The best way to attempt to prevent the problem is to irrigate early enough in the day to allow the foliage to dry. Air circulation around the plants is also an important consideration and should be open and free of encroaching plant neighbors.

Of course, I can’t help but be curious. Are there other tri-county cities that have an official city flower that we can brag about? Feel free to let me know and provide historical reference.

— Reporter:

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