Gardening Articles: Flowers :: Perennials

Columbines

by Kathryn Van Horn


I was twelve when my father took a sabbatical and brought our family to live in Colorado for a year, and it was there that I first fell in love with columbines.

The plant I saw there was Aquilegia caerulea, the Rocky Mountain columbine, appropriately Colorado's state flower. During summer you see its long-spurred blue and white flowers and delicately divided foliage throughout the mountainous West, from New Mexico to Idaho. To my somewhat fanciful imagination, the graceful, nodding flowers looked like tiny jesters' caps for a royal fairy court.

Later, during college, I spent part of one summer in England, where I greatly admired the cottage gardens of Dorset and Cambridgeshire. A staple plant of these gardens was a short-spurred columbine with somewhat smaller flowers in many colors. These delicate beauties, I learned, were varieties of the European wild columbine or granny's bonnet, A. vulgaris.

Today just the sight of a columbine lifts my spirits--this early-blooming perennial is perhaps one of the reasons I became a gardener. I've learned about the many forms of these delightful plants and that's what I'd like to share with you here.
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