Six on Saturday: 30 May 2020 – Oh My Darling Columbine

Well the metre fits. As I maintain my return to the fold, I’m featuring another “collection” of six, this week Columbines or, as most call them Aquilegia.

They’re also called “Granny’s bonnets”. I wonder if Granny wears them as she’s gardening. The name “Aquilegia” comes from the Roman “aquila”, meaning eagle, because some bright sparks decided that the flower petals resembled an eagle’s claw. “Columbine” comes from the Latin “columba”, meaning dove, because some other bright sparks decided that flowers looked like doves. As to “Granny’s bonnets” I leave you to form your own opinion.

Now I’m only here because some guy who we all call Pop (or is that Prop?) came up with the idea of inventing a meme to prop (or is that pop?) up his blog stats. And, if I may be so bold as to say so, a pretty fine invention it is, steadily blooming and increasing under his tender care. Pop over to his place, read his post of the day and then dig down below ground level to see a host of links to other six posts. Such are his propagating skills that the host grows throughout the day, and even into Sunday so repeat visits are a good idea. They also serve to increase, by a process of self-seeding, Mr Prop’s (or is that pop?) stats though, being low calory, don’t increase his waist size. Which is nice.

Right, let’s get on with it.

Number 1 today piggybacked on a Geranium that I planted last year. For the interested, it was G. himalayense. I don’t know which variety this is but it’s nice so I’ll live with it and let it self-seed and see what happens. It looks like a variety that poked itself up in a Devonian garden a few weeks back. (Those with long memories may recall that it became something of a tradition for me to find a way to mention Devon and for a certain Devonian to mention me each Saturday. Until she stopped. First!)

Number 2 is another sudden appearance. This didn’t piggyback. At least it appeared this year nowhere near anything newly-planted. This is a bit distinctive so, rather than allowing it to self-seed, I’ll collect seed and see.

Enough of the surprises.

This is a known variety which I planted deliberately. It’s a blue form of the Winky series. Now Winkies are not like other Aquilegias. Rather than forming tall clumps, they form short bushy plants. Here they don’t seem to seed themselves around. I planted two and I still have two. Now a few years old, they’re about a foot tall and maybe a bit more across.

One thing about Winkies is that if they do set seed, it doesn’t come true so even if you managed in some controlled way to pollinate a flower with another flower from the same plant, you wouldn’t be guaranteed a plant of the same colour.

Am I cheating? There’s nothing in the rules to say that I can’t feature a different colour of the same series. This is Winky pink. From the back so you can see the “claws”. You may also notice that, unlike many Aquilegias, the flowers face up. Which is handy as you either look down at these short plants or would have to lie in the mud to look up at them. As the flowers age, though, they seem to droop more.

Ah! The eponymous ‘Nora Barlow’. The original Nora had six children so her namesake, possibly the most prolific seeder of the buttercup family (did I mention that Aquilegia are related to buttercups?), has clearly read the manual. Though not necessarily completely. Nora was not a fan of frills and bright colours, preferring simple dress in “earth shades”. She was also Darwin’s (that’s Charles, you know) granddaughter. The Barlow series was named for her as, so the story goes, the first plants were found in her garden.

Just remember that if Nora appears in your garden, deadhead with abandon or she’ll appear everywhere. Like Himalayan Balsam. Individual plants are OK, though. They tend to be upright and fairly narrow, popping up wherever a bit of ground presents itself but not clogging out neighbouring plants.

Nora’s sibling, ‘Black Barlow’, is, at least for me, better behaved. I begged some seed from a friend some years ago as I’d long admired the colour of this form. A few seeds germinated and went on to develop decent plants. By ‘a few’ I literally mean three. I still have three Black Barlows. And only three. They very kindly form seed pods every year but those seed pods, when harvested, turn out to be empty.

Well, hey! I made a six, even if I cheated a bit.

If you grow Aquilegia, and don’t want to get overwhelmed – that many don’t go mad here (I’m looking at you, though, Nora) may be fortuitous but don’t assume that the same varieties as I have won’t go mad on your plot – start to chop down stems as soon as flowers START to fade. Don’t wait for a stem to completely go over as, by the time it does, early flowers will have dropped their seed. When a plant has finished, chop it to ground. In late autumn, the plant you think you hacked to death will start to send up new foliage. It’s getting a head start on next year. Leave the chopping too late and you’ll not only have an increased stock of plants from seeds (!) but will be removing the new foliage that will power the existing plant for another season.

10 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 30 May 2020 – Oh My Darling Columbine

  1. I am starting to be a fan of Aquilegias. I have grown a couple from seed. One of them Salmon Rose has performed well this year. I have winkies, your right they are not like other Aquilegia.

    1. Most of my Aquilegia seem to flower their socks off for a comparatively short time. Winky ones here are repeat flowering for a couple of months. Nice.

  2. I do love Aquilegias, although I don’t plant them enough! Great to see you back and although I am not adding at the moment I am reading them still
    One word of warning though, G.himelyanse is the devils plant! Yes it looks beautiful in flower but it will take over your whole garden with ease, no where will be safe, handweeding doesn’t work and it laughs at round up, it’s the mike Tyson of the plant world so watch out for your ears!

    1. I have noticed that despite not actually flowering last year (late planting), G. himalayense has already appeared elsewhere. My perennial Geraniums are, with one exception and that’s a clearly identifiable flower), all planted in the front garden. G.h is at the very back of the back garden and it’s around it that others have appeared, and flowered, looking just like it. I don’t mind as it’s a pretty flower at a time which is sort of in-between flower bursts in that part of the garden. I don’t touch Roundup. If I need something serious, which is very rare, I always stick to pure Glyphosate.

    1. I was thinking of you when I included my “mystery” Aquilegia (they look similar). Here, Nora has been religiously cut down before seed pods develop. I’ll never eradicate but intend to limit severely! Don’t worry, you’ll soon look forward to me going away again. 😉

  3. No, I wear a rather fetching straw hat when the sun is very fierce, I keep my bonnets for special occasions. You have a pretty selection of Columbines. Mine seed very freely but there are not many different varieties.

    1. Aquilegia are very promiscuous, you know. Nora is a proper nymphomaniac and will pop up everywhere if you let her seed. Other varieties may take a bit longer but, one day, you’ll suddenly discover some new wonders growing, even if you don’t introduce more yourself.

  4. Very nice choice of aquilegia John. I have 4 different , unlabeled but I must admit I love these flowers. The doubles like Nora are different and it gives the impression of growing another type of flower. I should also add some like these in my garden because they are gorgeous.

    1. If you like Nora, all you need to do is find a stem that’s about to set seed in someone else’s garden and walk around yours waving the stem like a conductor of a rousing opera chorus. Then sit back till next year. Tho be careful with your gravel areas (your drive is gravel, I think). She loves gravel!

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