Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Columbines for the Cottage Garden

Granny's Bonnet Columbine

Hardy to zone 3, columbines (Aquilegia) grow well in a leafy organic soil similar to where they would naturally be found under trees. As well as partial shade, they will survive in full sun in a moist well-drained area. The flowers that blossom in May to June are bell-shaped with five long nectar-filled spurs that attract bees, hummingbirds and butterflies.
This is a carefree plant seldom bothered by pests. Leaf miners will burrow inside the leaves, leaving a visible yellowish trail on the outside but don’t cause any permanent damage. Also sawfly larvae may eat leaves on the plant which can be cut right back to bring on a new flush of leaves.
Columbines are members of the buttercup family and there are about seventy-five different species of them. The native variety A. Canadensis is less troubled by miners and has nodding red and yellow flowers on 60-90 cm tall stems.
Columbines will readily self sow in the garden and it is a good idea to let some of these new plants grow as they are a short-lived perennial of only three to four years. Deadheading the flowers will prolong the blooms and curtail any unwanted seeds from germinating in the garden. Collected seeds can be sown in the spring or fall; however, cross-pollination will not guarantee the same colour of flower.
Alpine columbine grows in a compact little mound 45-60 cm high which makes it a great choice for a rock garden and they are longer lived than the larger ones.
The hybrid strains are vigorous with large pastel blooms and can be found in the McKana Group that reaches up to 90 cm tall to the Music Series, more compact at 45 cm. A few of the varieties from the music series will bloom for up to six weeks in spring.
A. vulgaris includes all of the old cottage garden collections known as granny’s bonnet that have round frilly flowers but no long spurs. The ‘Barlow’ strains are popular, especially the double flowers and the variety ‘Leprechaun Gold’ has variegated chartreuse and yellow leaves with deep purple flowers.

Columbine 'Music Series'

A blue variety.


  1. I love aquilegias and am always delighted to see them spring forth every year. I'm quite happy for them to self-sow too as anything that can survive the dogs is welcome!

  2. These are all truly beautiful..they are such a romantic enchanting plant!

  3. I love columbines! Can't wait for spring, thanks for the teaser! Bella


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