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Commonly found in classic English cottage gardens, delphinium features colorful flower spikes that color gardens during the spring and summer seasons. It’s one of the most symbolic flowers, even though it’s not as well-known as some other flowers. Here’s a look at what makes these delicate blooms so special, along with their symbolic meanings and uses.
What are Delphiniums?
Delphinium gets its name from the Greek term delphinion, meaning dolphin. Why dolphin? It’s because the Greeks thought the flower buds were shaped like the nose of dolphins. Delphiniums are loved for their blue flowers, but they can also be seen in white, pink, purple, lavender and sometimes yellow.
There are dwarf-sized delphiniums as well as tall varieties that can grow up to 6 feet tall. Apart from looking colorful in the landscape, delphiniums also attract bees and butterflies. They usually bloom in the spring and summer months, but won’t do well in regions with very hot, dry weather. Their stalks can be snapped easily by strong rains and winds.
Greek Myth About the Origin of Delphinium
While flowers often have origin stories in Greek myth, there isn’t a myth directly related to the delphiniums from ancient Greece. Some sources mention that when Ajax, the Greek hero, died during the Trojan War, his blood sprung out and turned into the delphinium flower. There are also some sources that say that Apollo, the Greek god of light and music, liked delphiniums so much that he wished for his temple to be decorated with them. However, these myths may have been recent additions as they aren’t mentioned in the ancient sources.
Having said that, dolphins were highly valued in Greek culture, and there are several myths that mention dolphins. Apollo favored dolphins and was associated with them. They became seen as lucky animals valued by the gods. They were also symbols of protection for sailors at sea. Because delphiniums were named after dolphins, the flower could also represent the same symbolism that dolphins had.
Meaning and Symbolism of the Delphinium Flower
Delphiniums are a highly symbolic flower, and unlike some flowers, these are all related to positive concepts.
- An Ardent Attachment: The flowers themselves look dreamy and romantic, associating them with romance. They can symbolize devotion in love or a strong bond of love, especially when linked with larkspurs.
- Openheartedness: When someone describes you as an openhearted person, they mean that you’re warm, kind and loving. Delphiniums boast their beautiful clusters of flowers on a long stem, making them associated with kindness and generosity, as if the flower has a big heart. In some parts of the Europe, they’re traditionally given to express goodwill and cheer towards others.
- Happiness and Lightheartedness: There’s something enthusiastic about their colorful blooms, making them a symbol of fun, levity and hilarity. Some even likene them to tinkling bells, reminding us of joyous occasions. In some interpretations, delphiniums can also represent positivity and the lighter side of life.
- The Dreamer’s Heart: In the Victorian language of flowers, the delphinium is associated with transcending the bounds of space and time. In modern interpretations, it represents one’s openness to new opportunities, feelings and emotions. Also, it reminds us to strive for something greater, representing our abilities to achieve our goals and dreams in life. Delphiniums are just one of those beautiful blooms that inspire us to persevere and withstand all the challenges in life.
- Heavenly: There’s something paradisiacal and idyllic about their magnificent, tall flowering spikes. Some even regard the flower as offering divine protection, since it was used in the past to drive away scorpions.
- Fickleness: In some contexts, delphiniums can also symbolize fickleness, probably because they have a hard time withstanding the wind and their stalks can be snapped easily.
Delphinium Symbolism Based on Color
Delphiniums’ showy spikes of colorful flowers have specific meanings too. Here are some of them:
- Blue delphiniums represent dignity and grace. However, lighter shades of blue symbolize youth and success. In some contexts, they’re also associated with new life and remembrance.
- Purple delphiniums are associated with beauty and royalty, just like most purple flowers.
- White and pink delphiniums symbolize youth—but in some contexts, white flowers represent purity, innocence and spirituality, while pink blooms are associated with romance.
Uses of the Delphinium Flower Throughout History
The towering columns of delphinium add drama to any landscape, but their history goes several centuries back. In fact, they’ve been associated with rituals and folk medicine.
- In Magic and Superstitions
The delphinium flower is believed to ward off ghosts, banish negative energy and inspire generosity. They were often used in rituals, decorating altars to deepen one’s spiritual connection with the divine. In England, people grew delphiniums in their yard and sprinkled them in their bathwaters, in hopes of receiving protection from ghosts.
Delphinium was also used as an amulet against scorpion stings and snakebites. It’s said that the flower will fill homes with love and laughter, and many still use them as protection from bad luck. Some even put them under their pillows to strengthen their devotion in love. In some regions, they’re often planted near graves to honor the ones who passed away.
- Industrial Uses
Certain varieties of the flower were utilized by the Northwest Coast Indians and European settlers in making blue dye, which was used for coloring ceremonial items and arrows. It’s said that delphiniums were also dried and powdered as effective insecticides.
- In Medicine
Certain varieties of the plant were thought to be an effective remedy for poisonous stings, intestinal worms, colic and poor appetite, apart from being an amulet against scorpions. A tincture, made from its leaves and seeds, was used to kill lice and nits in the hair too. It’s said that delphiniums are toxic and poisonous so they should never be ingested, though some have used it to help with relaxation and sleep.
Delphinium in Use Today
Delphiniums are valued for their beautiful color and graceful appearance. This is why they make for ideal embellishments for jewelry and art.
A great thing about these flowers is that delphiniums can also add a touch of romance and watercolor-esque hue to your interiors. Their stalks extend far beyond the other blooms, making them perfect for a dramatic flower arrangement that can last up to a week or two. They also offer many possibilities for styling and designing beautiful decorations in our homes.
Delphiniums are the perfect blue flowers for summer weddings! They can make grand statements in centerpieces, add a dash of romance at a dinner party, and make elegant cascading bouquets. These tall blooms are a great focal point when arranged solo, but they’re a great filler flower too. Whether you have a vintage, bohemian, rustic or modern theme, they’ll surely make your big day more special.
When to Give Delphinium Flowers
Delphinium is the birth flower of July, making them the meaningful gift to encourage someone to chase his or her dreams. But they’re suited to celebrate any occasion. The flower reflects friendly qualities, making it a token of friendship, and even an expression of romantic love towards your special someone.
Is anyone from your family and friends starting a new career or business? Show your support with these blossoms, which will likely inspire them to do their best and try out new experiences. Do you know someone who may be feeling down and disheartened? A bouquet of delphiniums will surely motivate her to stay strong and focus on the brighter side of life.
From a lovely hostess gift to a graduation present and a surprise gift, these blooms will bring smile to someone’s face.
What to Know About the Delphinium
Native to temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, these old-fashioned blooms are from the Delphinium genus of the Ranunculaceae family.
Normally, they have white centers called bees or eyes and maple-like leaves. The most known varieties are the D. californicum and the D. variegatum. The ‘King Arthur’ has reddish-purple blooms, while the ‘Blue Butterfly’ boasts its blue flowers with a hint of purple.
These flowers are often confused with the true larkspur, which is a close relative of delphiniums. However, the Delphinium genus has several flowers that are also called by the common name larkspur, so sometimes people use the terms interchangeably. While delphiniums resemble the bottle-like nose of the marine creature, larkspurs look like the claw of a bird.
Blue is one of the rarest colors in nature, yet these flowers effortlessly make a whimsical statement in any landscape. With their beauty and symbolic meanings, it’s no wonder that delphiniums remain among the aristocrats of the garden.