Columbine … The Star of the Season
What a week it has been – rain, rain and more rain – thunder and lightning and moments of glorious sunshine – great for the garden – not so good for gardening. It is still too cold to put out the summer containers which are ready and waiting in the greenhouse but they are filling out nicely and hopefully will put on a good show – given the chance. I have been working in there this afternoon; transplanting, potting on and doing some of the 1,001 jobs that need to be done at this time of year if you want your garden to look good during the rest of the year.
But I haven’t come to tell you how busy I’ve been – I’ve come to show you pictures of the lovely Columbine.
Each plant has its time in the garden and now it is the turn of the Columbine (Aquilegia, Granny’s Bonnet). Surely this must be the quintessential cottage garden plant.
“Columbines will self-seed, 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 occur in open woodland or meadowland on wood fringes. Their range of colour is not as extensive as the long-spurred relatives (which would 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. Columbines are one of the mainstays of early summer.” ~ Helen Dillon.
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 flowering, I love their old-fashioned style, so delicate and almost exotic looking – orchid-like.
Each year I collect the seeds of a favourite colour once the seeds pods have dried out and sow them onto fresh compost straight away – they take a couple of years to form plants – that way I know I will always have a succession – they do self-seed quite freely and can be a nuisance but if I remember I go round and snip the seed heads off so that the garden won’t be over-run with them.
Columbine is a symbol of foolishness based on the flowers’ resemblance to a jester’s cap and bells. It was considered bad luck to give this flower to a woman. It has many religious connotations too to do with Mary’s footsteps. Shakespeare mentions Columbine in Hamlet in which the tragically mad Ophelia collects it, although in this case it is taken as a symbol of ingratitude and infidelity.
Who would have thought that this beautiful little flower had so much meaning behind it – all I know is – I look forward to it appearing in the garden every year.