Faves: Oh my darlin’ Columbine

If you have been religious about deadheading your columbines (Aquilegia), you might still be enjoying the benefits of these generous producers.

If not, and they’ve gone to seed, be sure to let them ripen and to sprinkle them where the tiny seeds will be exposed to light for germination.

Or, better yet, shop around for seeds for next year. There are lots to choose from. Columbine isn’t just a pretty face, it’s a whole array of pretty faces.

At the top of the column is the blue form of Aquilegia alpina, one of my favourites and almost as pretty in white. Below, captured in a neighbour’s garden, is a long-spurred form that might be one of the ‘McKana Giants’. I had a similar yellow one in our previous garden.

Maybe because the movie was on recently, but I find this picture of the opening bloom makes it look a bit like the monster in Alien. Thought I’d share that passing fancy. That’s okay. It’s one monster I wouldn’t mind sharing space with.

At left is what I refer to as a “granny’s bonnet” form. It’s Aquilegia ‘Petticoats’.

On its own, I find this pink a bit insipid. (And, likely because I think that way, it has graciously self-seeded itself all over my garden.) However, complemented by the blue alpinas to add punch, it makes a fine display. The individual florets are winningly complex.


And here is a slightly blurry image of the multi-petalled ‘Nora Barlow’. It comes in a range of colours, from white to so-called “black” (really, deep purple) through pinks and blues, some single coloured and some, as here, tipped with light. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a yellow version of Nora. Anyone?

Last on my by no means exhaustive list of the many faces of columbines is Aquilegia ‘Origami’, with its more upward-facing blooms. This range of columbines is typically two-tone. I like the single-toned creamy white here.

Like most prolific-flowering perennials, columbines can be short-lived. However, the great thing is that, unlike my darlin’ Clementine, they are rarely “lost and gone forever.” I leave the last seed pods of the season to ripen, and find these plants grow best where they plant themselves.

You can even sow seeds now for next year. As I mentioned, germination requires light exposure on the seeds, so sprinkle them after mulching or wait till they germinate before you mulch. Then sit back and enjoy these easy-care darlings.


  1. Hi Helen! I've never seen so many types of C. I love Origami and Granny bonnet especially. My C.plants seed and grow everywhere, and I need to do some elimination, otherwise they'll take over the garden.

  2. Ohhhh, thanks so much, Helen! Since I moved here from PA, I MISS my columbines…your photos were just so excellent. I particularly liked your first photo! Awesome! I regularly let my go to seed and shook them all over the place, or shared the seeds with friends! Janet

  3. In another life I was what I called "a gardener's elf," helping the master gardener with the cutting and display gardens at an estate. I wasn't a glamorous worker; I did the hauling and weeding mostly. But I did learn to love the Aquilegia. I think they grow here, but I'm going to conquer the Lisianthus I have first before I tackle these lovely ones. Nice pictures.

  4. Oh, how lovely they all are. I now have a major crush on Nora Barlow. She's a lovely little multi-petaled flower now, isn't she? Thanks so much for sharing. Teresa

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