This week we are looking at the delightful Aquilegia. This lovely perennial can be found in meadows and woodland but you will also find them in gardens. They have very distinctive flowers due to the petals being spurred. Interestingly, the name “Aquilegia” comes from the Latin word for ‘eagle’ (aquila) because of the resemblance of the flower shape to that of an eagle’s claw. The common name “columbine”(Latin for “dove”) is used due to the inverted flowers resembling a cluster of five doves.
Cultivation & Care
Aquilegia grows well in moist but well-drained, fertile soil in full-sun or partial shade. They are intolerant of heavy clay so avoid growing this species if you have soil of that texture in your garden. While they generally only live for about 3 years, Aquilegia produce seed quite prolifically. It is important to note that they can be quite greedy plants and will often inhibit the growth of nearby plants, particularly legumes. Care is really easy, just keep an eye out for aphids and prune back after the plant has finished flowering or setting seed.
Whatever the cultivar, Aquilegia provide gorgeous blooms accompanied by attractive delicate foliage at the base of the plant with leaflets divided into threes. Below are but a few species to consider growing in your garden.
Aquilegia formosa (Western Columbine)
This species of Aquilegia is a warm addition to the flower bed with its gorgeous orange and yellow petals.
Aquilegia flavescens (Yellow Columbine)
If you’re after a calmer coloured Aquilegia then this cultivar has lovely, delicate cream and yellow flowers may be the plant for you.
Aquilegia vulgaris (European Columbine)
Wild varieties of this species usually have blue-purple flowers, however there are many different colour variants now available from the plants long history of cultivation.
While Aquilegia may be beautiful to us, they are incredibly attractive to bumblebees, albeit for a different reason. They offer an abundance of nectar for them to feed on during the spring and summer. Aquilegia also provides a vegetative food source for butterfly and moth caterpillars. If you live in America, you will also attract hummingbirds to your garden if you grow this plant as they adore the nectar it provides.