Aquilegia Common Name
– Columbine (Granny's Bonnets)
2 to 4 feet.
Many colours, June to July.
It is difficult for anyone who knows the plant
not to become enthusiastic about the Columbine.
It is absolutely hardy, lasting and easy to raise
and grow; it flowers at a time when there is apt
to be a gap in the garden chronicle between the
last of the spring bulbs and the first of the
summer display; and its blooms are unlike anything
else in their grace of form and contrasts of delicate
Seldom have the hybridists such good reason to
congratulate themselves as in the case of the
The older varieties show for the most part a rather
lifeless colouring, slaty blues, dull clarets
and undistinguished pinks; and many of them are
so double as entirely to destroy the characteristic
form of the flower.
The only sorts worth growing in this class are
a large single blue, not unlike the wild type,
and a very free-flowering single white.
The newer discoveries and cross-breeds are almost
all singles, in which the “doves’
heads” of the original Columbine are elongated
into tails or spurs, and the petals show remarkably
pure light colours, either “self”
or contrasted in the same flower.
One of the best amongst these is chrysantha, a
tall grower with a most satisfactory and accommodating
constitution and flowers of a lovely clear yellow.
Glandulosa and coerulea have contrasts of blue
and white; Skinneri has rather small flowers with
yellow petals and orange scarlet spurs. But whatever
sorts are grown, room must be found for the class
described by the growers as “Hybrids”
or “selected Hybrids”. These are long-tailed
and mostly two-coloured, showing such combinations
as rose and primrose, yellow and amethyst, pink
and cream, mauve and white, and many shades of
Aquilegias may be planted in groups of two or
three, or even singly, in perennial or mixed borders;
but if possible, a patch or bed of them should
be grown together – from a dozen plants
to a couple of hundred – because the perfect
harmony of many tints is one of the greatest charms
of the race.
They will flower freely in quite shady places
and under trees (not evergreens); the best position
is perhaps one which gets all the morning sun
and is in shade from about 2 p.m.
The soil should be fairly good and must not be
too droughty. In making up quarters for Columbines
trench in the autumn some old hotbed manure, and
mix leaf-mould and road-grit in the upper strata.
The plants should be put out in October, about
a foot apart every way, and as soon as growth
is visible in the spring, they should have a good
top-dressing of leaf-mould, old manure, wood-ashes
and a little soot. Scattered round and between
As a rule the flower stems stand pretty stiffly;
but old-established plants which send up a sheaf
of bloom will probably need the support of a stick
or two and a loop of bass.
When the flowering is over, cut down the stems,
and at the autumn tidying-up weed the ground between
the plants and fork it lightly over.
If the soil is cold and clayey or otherwise unkindly
sow the seed in boxes of light soil, well drained,
and stand the boxes in the shade of a north wall,
or under a frame light with a mat on it.
In soils in which small seeds (such as hardy annuals)
are raised without difficulty, sow in shallow
drills in a well-prepared bed in the open, and
shade the patch till the seedlings begin to appear.
Sowings, whether in boxes or in the ground, should
be made about the first week in June.
As soon as the plants are large enough to handle,
prick out four inches apart in rows on a nice
open piece of soil, keep the ground clean, and
plant out in the final positions in October.
It is unfortunate that the choicer Columbines
are not of quite such tough constitutions as are
the coarser sorts; it is the case with many flowers,
and some other things besides.
After a bed has stood three or four years, some
of the plants will be the picture of gross health,
and some will be invalid-ish.
It will be found that the thriving specimens have
in almost every case the coarser flowers.
It may be noted that Chrysantha seems proof against
this deterioration and will flower finely in one
spot for seven or eight years at least.
To maintain a collection of all the best kinds,
seen should be sown every third, if not every