Saturday, 26 May 2012

Columbine - A Plant with Old-Fashioned Style

I have often thought that if heaven had given me a choice of my position and calling, it should have been on a rich spot of earth, well watered, and near a good market for the productions of the garden.  No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden.  Such a variety of subjects, some one always coming to perfection, the failure of one thing repaired by the success of another, and instead of one harvest a continued one through the year.  Under a total want of demand except for our family table, I am still devoted to the garden.  But though an old man, I am but a young gardener. - Thomas Jefferson

Each plant has its time in the garden - the Aquilegia's  (Columbine, Granny's Bonnet) time is now.  Surely this must be the quintessential cottage garden plant.

The columbines will self-seed too, often putting themselves in places that you would never have thought of yourself.  You can learn from that.  Sometimes, you may even find a new colour strain arising in a seedling, which is a great thrill.  And by nurturing the novelty, you will be carrying on in the best traditions of the cottage garden. - Anna Pavord
Columbines may occur in open woodland or in meadowland on wood fringes.  Their range of colour is not as extensive as the long-spurred relatives (which would also be quite at home in a cottage garden), but they cover some pretty shades of blue, mauve, old rose, purple and white.  Beware of them - they are inveterate self-seeders.  They may be very pretty in flower but they will leave you with a scene of dereliction later. - Christopher Lloyd


It doesn't matter what you call them they are the stars of the season.  Even if you start off with the sophisticated modern hybrids, with elegant long spurs and vivid colours, their self-sown seedlings will gradually revert to the old-fashioned sorts.  With the exception of the rather unpleasant variegated forms, columbines are one of the mainstays of early summer. - Helen Dillon

Pinned Image
These are just a few of the Columbine in my garden at the moment - the colours range from almost black to the palest of blues - their reign is very short, all too soon they run to seed, but while they are here I love their old-fashioned style.

30 comments:

  1. They are such beautiful, delicate flowers. I've just been photographing mine but I haven't got the pretty pastel blues that you have. I'll have to sow some more for next year.

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  2. I'll send you some seed of the pale blue one if you would like it - don't know whether it would come true though!

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  3. Lovely post and lovely words Elaine. I particularly like "though but an old man, I am but a young gardener" - a sentiment dear to my own heart (except I'm not a man... small detail!). My sis is bringing me some aquilegias from her garden which I'll plant in the cottage garden border I'm planning. They are one of my favourite flowers, I love the old fashioned name and their delicate petals. Wonderful!

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    1. I know you are not a man Caro - just a guess - but neither are you old. I look forward to the aquilegias every year sadly the flowers are very short-lived but beautiful to photograph. Looking forward to seeing pics of your future cottage garden border.

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  4. I've a few on the plot that just appeared, and which I always look forward to seeing. A plot neighbour has a rather impressive very dark, almost black, flowering double on his plot. Flighty xx

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    1. They come in a good range of colours - most of mine are just the common ones - but I still love them - they do seem to pop up all over the place - lucky you getting some free ones.

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  5. Much beloved & I were discussing these beauties yesterday saying what a shame they always have their heads dipped & we're not able to really appreciate them without lifting their heads.
    We tried to take some upside down shots but got more sky than flower....they are perfect :-)

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    1. You are right Jane - they are little beauties and much appreciated in my garden, alas, they go over all too soon.

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  6. Beautiful! True cottage garden favourites...never out of fashion. If only their flowers would hold on for longer.

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    1. I agree Bridget I love them - Jane at Tidy Gardens says that she takes off the flower heads once they have lost their petals and they keep on going, I'll have to try it.

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  7. Lovely. Mine have just started flowering (not before bleedin time). Got a bit confused with that opening paragraph at first, especially the bit about being an old man.

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    1. I took it to mean - I may be old but gardening keeps me young - or maybe, he took up gardening late in life. You've got me confused now

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    2. Sorry - I meant, I thought you were writing that you were an old man! When clearly you are not.. D

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  8. One of my favourite flowers too Elaine, and invaluable at this time of year. Mind you, some of their offspring can be abominations, I ended up with yellow leaves topped with pale pink flowers last year - not a good look. Still can't get enough of them though, and am already making plans to pinch some from this garden for the next one, which seems unaccountably bereft of them.

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    1. See - you are already thinking about putting your stamp on your next garden. I have a rather dirty pink one this year that I would prefer not to have but I haven't the heart to pull it out. They are an exquisite addition to any garden especially one like mine that tends towards the old-fashioned flowers.

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  9. i love columbines. Mine are only just starting to flower. I've bought some named varieties this year, so I'm hoping for an even better display next year.

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    1. love the long-spurred ones but they don't seem to re-seed as well as the common ones - so I think I will collect the seed from my favourites this year and sow them myself.

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  10. Oooh, I love all the colours you have growing in your garden! Years ago when I had more of a north-facing garden, columbines did okay but did not reseed as much as I'd hoped. Maybe I'll try them again. Thanks for the pretty portraits.

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    1. One year I dug a lot up because they were taking over, the ones I left didn't re-seed as well as they usually do and I practically had none left - so now I am careful what I choose to dispose of - a garden without aquilegias would be unthinkable.

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  11. I have more columbine this year in the garden than last. That is one of the great things about Columbine; they readily self-seed. I have a pale pink very like your first picture and would love to add some mauves like the ones in your second image.

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    1. They certainly are a great addition to the garden Jennifer

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  12. You have a fabulous collection of columbine. The blue one is our state flower. They are one of my favs and they do so well. Yours really are beautiful. (PS I like your Pinterest pins).

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    1. I do seem to have accumulated quite a lot of different colours - I love them but they are far too short-lived for my liking- still I wouldn't be without them.

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  13. They are lovely plants. I only introduced Columbine to my garden last year and I'm seeing the benefits first hand! I hope mine self seed, so far they haven't.

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    1. You might live to regret saying that Kelli - once they get going they pop up everywhere.

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  14. I too love Columbines, they are such easy plants and so colourful.

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    1. You are right about them being easy Martin - so easy in fact that you could become overrun with them - if not for a little judicial removal now and then.

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  15. They are definitely 'good doers' and you have some lovely colours. Mine pop up in odd places all over the garden and if it's somewhere impractical, such as the middle of the veg. plot, then I just dig them up and re-site them, they are so obliging. And the slugs don't like them - can't be bad!

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    1. Slugs are rampant in my garden at the moment - so any plant that resists them is fine by me.

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