Herbaria (May 23, 2012)

This week’s Herbaria is a tribute to columbine (Aquilegia) and some of its friends. There’s a lot going on in the garden right now, but chances are good that this will be the last week that they are all blooming at the same time and I was eager to see them assembled together as a collection.

Aquilegia are charming, graceful, meadow flowers that dance and sway in the breeze on long, thin stems. They are generally very profuse self-seeders, although I planted a deep wine colored double last year that broke the rule and did not reproduce or come back, period. [Shakes fist] Despite the rare exception, they are very easy plants to grow and the toughest of the bunch will succeed in surprisingly shady locations.

Aquilegia are a diverse group with plants in a wide range of forms, colors, and flower shapes. I tend towards the simple native types and the elegant double flowers. I am generally not a fan of the two-toned or very open flowers, although you can see that there is an exception in my collection. Of the flowers and leaves I have assembled below, there is one missing that I was not able to add here, a dark double called ‘Black Barlow.’ I put it in as a bare root early this spring and it will be another year before the flowers make an appearance. Plus, Davin moved it and I don’t know exactly where it is so I couldn’t find a leaf to include.

In the future I hope to add the native Aquilegia canadensis to my garden, but I’m waiting to get one in trade. I just can’t bring myself to purchase a plant that reproduces so readily!

From Left to Right:

Top Row: 1. Columbine meadow rue (Thalictrum aquilegiifolium). It’s not an aquilegia; however, the resemblance is so strong they put it in both the common and botanical names. 2. Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea). Again, not an aquilegia, but I had to fill up nine boxes and there is a resemblance. In fact, I have it growing underneath some of the other aquilegias. They’re garden friends. 3. I bought this one on a whim at the Parkdale Horticultural Plant Fair last year without any clue as to what the bloom would be like. All it said on the tag was, “blue or pink.” That’s chancy for someone like me who is picky about columbine flowers. The good news is that I like it a lot, most specifically because of the little tinges of green on the ends of the petals. It’s hard to see in the photo at this size, but the leaves are two-toned, with a darker trim around the edges.

Middle Row: 4. Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Maxi’. These bright yellow flowers with elongated spurs seemed to show up everywhere I went in Denver last summer. I absolutely fell in love with it and went home with the strong desire to add at least one to my garden. I wonder if they served as inspiration for the Alien creatures? I think of the films every time I see it. 5. My friend Barry gifted me this plant last spring. The flowers are white, but what makes them extra special are the green tips. I just love green flowers. 6. I believe this is also a Thalictrum, but the plant it came from is small and hasn’t produced flowers as of yet. I’ve noticed that these younger leaves are much more bluey-green than those of the mature plant and I’m not sure if that’s down to age or location.

Bottom Row: 7. This purple and white aquilegia is my least favorite of the lot and I am considering culling it from my collection. It came to me as a volunteer at my community plot and was brought over accidentally in an attempt to transfer its bedfellow ‘Nora Barlow’ (end of this row), which was also a volunteer there. I was happy to leave it be in the community garden, but the two-toned flowers are bordering on the line between what I deem to be a nice columbine and one that is crass. 8. Variegated columbine. I love just about everything chartreuse and/or variegated, so when I saw this one last spring, I had to have it. What has surprised me is how much I LOVE the flowers. They are a solid, deep purple and they bloom profusely. The entire plant is absolutely gorgeous and I’m glad I located it right at the front of my garden, even if its girth has reduced the width of the path to a sliver. 9. Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Nora Barlow’ This one was featured last week, but I had to bring it back again to round out my columbine collection. I love its graceful, double flowers, and again, the green tinged theme makes an appearance. This one is a charmer, and if I had to choose a favorite, comes in at a very close second behind the chrysantha.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

Subscribe to get weekly updates from Gayla

15 thoughts on “Herbaria (May 23, 2012)

  1. I’ll gladly trade you some Aquilegia canadensis! I live in Swansea in Toronto. I’m looking for more natives to add to my garden if you have any such as trout lily?

  2. The deep wine coloured Columbine is alive and flourishing in the old shared veg. garden. I think we can still get access to retrieve some seed later in the year.
    Since both Thalictrum and Aquileegia are in the same family , you could call this your Ranunculaceae Collection.

    • I considered that! The plant I had came from Humber. A friend bought the same one twice with the same result. I’d definitely like one from the former Yardshare.

  3. Columbine is our state flower (Colorado). I am swoony nutso for the big blue native bloom and did manage to germinate some wild seeds which are happily flowering right now in my garden.

  4. I only have a tall dark purple columbine in my new garden, and it’s just about done blooming. With all the shady space I have to fill, I love that it’s such a generous re-seeder.”Maxi” is awfully striking, going to have to look for that!

    This is such a great series of blog posts, I’m looking forward to seeing more. My sister Laura started a series of finding a rainbow of plants and natural bits from around her property back in January and it’s been so fun to follow. http://www.duofiberworks.com/journal/category/rainbow-order

  5. Hi Gayla,
    What a fabulous shot! Your design skills always impress me. I can only imagine how hard it is sometime to get 9 of something similar ( well, I don’t need to imagine it!, I know from first-hand experience!). Congrats on the new book. – Matt

  6. Beautiful picture! I’m looking forward to seeing more of this photography project. (Liked last weeks a lot.)

    I love columbines, too. They’re just so interesting and they’re elegant, but not in a stuffy sort of way.

  7. I love the variegated columbine but the ‘green-tipped’ white flowered one is pretty spectacular too. These images are gorgeous & interesting.

  8. Even the ‘crass’ one is gorgeous – it can volunteer in my garden any time.

  9. Love the herbaria photos – such a simple concept and they are just beautiful. I was looking at the thumbnails in a row and it occurred to me that they would make fantastic greeting card designs, especially if seasonal. Might be worth looking into?

Comments are closed.