Today's plant obsession - Aquilegia

Today's plant obsession is Aquilegia, common name Columbine, though some species are also called Granny's Bonnet.

We have enough Granny's Bonnet here at May Dreams Gardens to open up a hat shop, a milliner's delight of color.

This is mostly due to allowing Aquilegia to self-sow about the garden because at least in this garden, I believe it is a sin to weed out Aquilegia.

As a result, we have this lovely stand of light blue double columbine, probably 'Blue Tower', growing where it planted itself in a garden border that currently has no name.

Nearby, a darker blue columbine is sharing space with a hellebore.

Don't worry, though, columbine and hellebores are both in the same plant family, Ranunculaceae.

It's funny now, but back in college, when I took a class in plant taxonomy, I never thought much about the Ranunculaceae family. I didn't think it had much to offer me. Now I'm obsessed, in a good way of course, with several members of its family, including Aquilegia, Helleborus, and Clematis.

These pastel colored columbine may appeal to many gardeners, especially in the spring time.

These are growing in Plopper's Field, just about ready to be overtaken by some daylilies. 

Also growing in Plopper's Field is this stand of mostly pink Granny's Bonnets which are probably progeny of Aquilegia 'Tower Pink'.

Across the way, in the garden border called Woodland Follies, a native columbine is blooming in a little stand of native woodland flowers.

It is probably Aquilegia canadensis.

I've always wanted a yellow columbine, and now I have one.
I would have to find the plant tag to know the exact variety, but my guess it is 'McKana's Giant', which are mixed colors, and I just chose a yellow one to plant.

I always keep a look out for interesting Aquilegia at the garden centers.  That's how I found these dwarf columbine.

This spring I found 'Green Apples' columbine for sale and bought one to plant somewhere in the garden.

Columbine does have some issues.  Leaf miners always disfigure the leaves, though they rarely kill the plant.  There is also the problem of columbine sawfly larvae which can skeletonize the leaves overnight. The best method of controlling them is to just pick off the little green caterpillars as soon as you see evidence of them. They are tiny, so you have to look closely to find them.

The only other issue I can think of is that Aquilegia can be addictive.  I dare you to try to plant just one.


  1. I saw your link and just HAD to click on it... hehee... I'm one of the bizarre people that doesn't like Columbines. My landscaping is very "tidy," and the Columbines just sort of grow up wherever they feel like it and it can be annoying. I'm always finding stray ones here and there. But I don't have the heart to rip them out. I love plants too much!

    I do have a newfound respect for them, though, considering how tenacious they are. I planted 3 as seedlings from a large plant company about 10 years ago... before I had an idea of what I really wanted my garden to look like... and they just spread all over the place.

    HOWEVER, having said that, I am absolutely OBSESSED with hellebores. The back bed of my house is just packed with them. They're the one plant I don't mind letting spread out and take over... I'm just absolutely in love with their little cupped flowers. And the flowers last for AGES!! They're hard to find, though. I don't think enough people know about them yet.

    Having read this post, I'm now considering relocating my Columbines to my hellebore bed. If they are happy sharing a space, perhaps I can put them where there's already something that's sort of "going wild," and the two plants will complement each other.

    I think the other reason I'm not crazy about the columbines is that I bought a "boring" color. They're "dark blue," but it's not a color that pops out at you when you see it in our landscaping. So I don't really get the benefit of the color... just the mess of leaves that are all over the place.

    Perhaps I should look into some of the ones that you posted here... there's some real eye-poppers!! My hellebores' flowers are sort of petering out at this point, and the columbines are in full bloom... if I bought some brighter ones, I could really add a nice splash of color to my back bed.

    I think you've officially turned me from a Columbine-hater into a FAN! I just need a better color and location for them to work in my landscaping.

    Ah, well... off to do a manic, obsessive search for pretty Columbines. I'm sure you understand... once a plant gets "into your head" you just have to have it right away!

    Happy gardening, and happy spring!

    Smiles, Jenn

  2. We've had such a slow spring mine is still blooming with yours. Hugs.~~Dee

  3. Love all your Columbines, especially the ones in the first picture, love that colour. Your Columbines are blooming exuberantly! Due to bad and cold weather the Columbines just don't want to bloom yet here. And they won't produce that many flowers as I see in your post, I can tell you that already! I think they lack sun. After the coldest winter with a lot of snow, we now have the coldest spring with a lot of rain. I can't wait for sun and a blue sky!

  4. The aquilegias are only just starting to come out in N.W.England. I have grown them from seed for many years and they now appear all over the garden, and in many cases, I have no idea of the original plant. I now take a picture of the very first flowers from the sowing so that there is some kind of record.

  5. I totally get your obsession, they're wonderful plants. I have the best luck with our native columbine but love them so much I keep trying the others!

  6. I can't bring myself to weed them out either no matter how many I have. I like the color of the first one and I love the dwarf!

  7. I absolutely LOVE Columbine. I buy more every year and I'm starting to get some nice colors. I just adore your light blue one...I don't think I've ever seen that color. Mine always get leaf-miners, but in an odd way, it gives the leaves a very interesting look. If I can't beat it, I might as well look for something good about it! :-)

  8. I love your shady garden under the tree. It is very pretty.

  9. The Granny`s Bonnets (flowers without long spurs) must be quite old since where you see them here is around abandoned homesteads, always pink or dark blue.
    If you like dwarf colmbines, you should try some of the small native ones, for instance the Rocky Mountain columbine (similar to the one on your picture, but even smaller). As their garden variety sisters, they are very easy from seed.

  10. Your columbines are beautiful! I love them. They are all over my garden. Some of them remind me of pinwheels. I will always have them in my garden.

  11. My hat shop would run some serious competition with yours, Carol. They're EVERYWHERE here and like you, I have a hard time removing them, no matter where they come up. They're notorious for cross-pollinating and hybridizing into other colors too. I've got colors now that I didn't plant (nor would, if given the choice).

    I don't think your native columbine is that. I've got Aquilegia canadensis, transplanted from the ditch by my grandma's farm and the blooms on yours are too large, too vibrant in color, and the plant is too tidy to be that, I think. But I could be wrong. I'm basing my statement on your photo though.

    I have a terrible time with leaf miners here, although as you say, they don't harm the blooms and the plants still thrive. People who don't know what's going on think I have wonderful variegated plants. LOL!

  12. Love those acquilegia! Growing in my garden in rural Quebec are the offspring of some from New Zealand. I picked the seeds from plants there (with the owner's permission) and threw them onto a likely spot in Quebec. Because of the climate differences I never expected them to grow or survive. They have done both -- have flourished, in fact, side by side with the acquilegia canadensis. Some have cross-bred into a muddy dark red but others remain firmly themselves.

  13. I love Columbines too, yours are lovely! It's so special what they do in my garden every spring. I've been trying to grow some new ones from seed, A. vulgaris woodside variegated was very hard, I only got 3 so far, so I oversowed A. Crystal Star (white) and got like 20 in a small pot! But the yellow one, A. chrysantha, has refused to sprout at all. I'm sad. I had some come up in my vegetable rows and couldn't rip them out, enormous plants too, and one has the first leaf miners I've seen. Terrible. But at least I'm looking forward to the Crystal Stars!

  14. Oh my no I can't have just ne...I encourage them to seed all over and it is a delight when I see them pop up anywhere...yes they are an obsession for me too.

  15. the red with the yellow centers takes me back to my childhood.. they grew wild in Northern British Columbia Canada...we use to nibble off the little balls at the ends. they tasted like honey!

  16. I am about to go an plant 5 in my garden right now. Do you find that they disappear later in the season? How does the foliage fair fair post-bloom?


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