Grow Columbine in your garden, and you’ll be growing a perennial that’s been grown in England since 1600.
Columbine, or Aquilegia vulgaris, is sometimes called Grannie’s Bonnets. It’s a very hardy clump-forming perennial that has lovely grayish-green foliage and can grow up to 3 feet when you include the flower stalks.
Most columbines have pink, burgundy or purple flowers – one popular one is called ‘Nora Barlow’, which is actually a double flower – they look like little pom poms. Columbines can also be found with white, yellow and salmon-orange flowers.
They flower in late spring and look good mixed with spring-flowering bulbs that will fade back as the aquilegias come out.
How to grow Aquilegia
Aquilegia vulgaris likes moist soil but it has to be well drained. They do not like to have their roots dry out. They do best in partial shade.
They are not fussy as to the type of soil -- it can be chalky or acidic.
All Aquilegias self seed very easily so nip the seed heads off before they go brown, if you do not want this to happen. Cutting off the seed heads will also promote more flowers.
If you want them to self-seed, then leave the seed heads on the plants and either let the seeds ripen and fall where they are, or cut them off into a container, then take the container to a spot where you want more aquilegia and spread the seeds around.
Note, however, that different varieties will readily hybridize among themselves, so keep the varieties apart from one another if you want them to come true to seed.
Aquilegias are prone to powdery mildew, which develops as a whitish coating on the leaves. If this happens, cut all the leaf stems down to the ground and they will re-grow. Keeping them well-watered will help to avoid powdery mildew.
They are also prone to leaf miner which shows up as squiggly-looking white lines in the leaves. Again, cut off all the affected leaf stalks down to the ground and it will re-grow.
Don’t put leaves or plants with leaf miner or powdery mildew in your compost pile. Bag them and throw them in the trash to prevent spreading the disease.
Aquilegias can be divided in autumn and winter or you can sow seed in spring or autumn.
All parts are considered poisonous and therefore should not be eaten. This, however, means they are a great perennial to grow if you have deer or rodent problems – they will generally not eat them.