Spring Bonnets

The earliest aquilegias, or granny’s bonnets, are swarming through our garden.

Aquilegias in the long border in MayTheir flowers range in hue and shape, from single to double, from off-white through palest pink to deepest purple, with the first yellows just beginning to open. Viewed up close, I find the frilly pale pink ones rather insipid, but en masse they do add an air of elegance to the border.

Aquilegias Here, a pale-pink flowered plant is flanked by a purple one and a dark pink one, just out of shot, to form a pleasing trio against the warm-toned foliage of a Stipa arundinacea.

Dark purple aquilegia

Purple aquilegia flowers

Some of my favourites each year are the purples, all self-sown here. Their colours range surprising widely, from the red end of the spectrum to the cooler blue-hued purples, with varying intensity.

Aquilegias and Veronica flowering in May Bicoloured purple and white aquilegia

One of the earliest bi-coloured aquilegias to flower here is this one in purple and white.

Aquilegia Lime Sorbet

A dozen plants of Lime Sorbet that I raised from seed wander through the garden, I still love their cool green-kissed ivory flowers, rather shyly turned away from the camera above.

Pink aquilegia facing upwards

Golden-leafed aquilegia

This dainty beauty, with its golden foliage and white bell-shaped flower, was bought as a tiny seedling from my visit to Touchwood Aquilegias last year. This evening I also spotted the first flower on one of the plants grown from packets of seed purchased at the same time, though I have not had the opportunity to capture it on camera yet.

Aquilegia fragrans flowers

Also in flower for the first time after being sown last year is this Aquilegia fragrans, with unusual pale flowers, blushed with purple atop deliciously dark stems with red-tinged foliage. Contrary to its name, it doesn’t appear to have any scent, but is nonetheless a welcome addition to the garden. I wonder where I planted out the rest of this batch…

Aquilegia Ruby Port

But this year’s new stars are these delicious Ruby Port plants, a dozen of which swagger through the top border, their dark red flowers a perfect match to the foliage of the acer that stands in the centre of this small bed.

Aquilegia Ruby Port and Acer foliage

Aquilegia Ruby Port

My mum gave me a single plant of this variety last summer that she had spare, its final flowers already fading away, and I planted it out and scattered its seeds throughout the border for good measure, knowing that this variety seeds true.

Aquilegia Ruby Port dark red flowers

Aquilegia Ruby Port dark red flowers

The river of dark red flowers that has sprung up this year, tall and stately, has exceeded my expectations. Aquilegias are one of my favourite plants, bridging the gap between spring and summer with style and flair.

Aquilegia Ruby Port against Acer and Euphorbia

Such elegance…






22 thoughts on “Spring Bonnets

  1. I’m also very fond of Aquilegias – there is such a big range of flower types and colours you can get, and of course since they hybridise readily you get something different every year.

    • Such different colours, flower shapes and heights, they are a very versatile plant! And I love the surprise of new seedlings flowering for the first time to reveal their true colours.

  2. A lovely set of photos. I’m fond of Aquilegias too and their way of self seeding wherever they fancy. Do you have the name of the one your mum gave you, it’s such a lovely colour.

  3. I was pleased when I saw your title as I was wondering how they were doing. I have rather too many healthy seedlings from my Touchwood seeds but they won’t flower till next year – meanwhile I have various self-seeded ones of mixed merit, some of which might need to be ousted. It was lovely to see the wide range of yours – and if you have a look at some of Monday vase posts I have used aquilegia a few times in a vase or posy. They last several days although the colour sometimes fades.

    • The first flowers on some of the plants that I sowed from Touchwood seed last summer are very beautiful – shall post on them a little later. The ones that sat in tiny pots for too long may not flower this year though! Good to know that aquilegias make decent cut flowers too.

  4. You’re very on trend. 😉 Aquilegias are everywhere at Chelsea, particularly ‘Ruby Port’. It’s a stunner and I loved seeing it mixed with grasses and Lysimachia ‘Beaujolais in the show gardens. My own garden is slowly being colonised by columbines. They’re giving the garden a real feeling of exuberance. I may have to tame them at some point though.

    • That’s me, bang on trend ;). Ah my Lysimachia Beaujolais don’t seem to have reappeared this year, so will have to grow them again for next year and treat as biennials I guess. I’m wondering about pulling out one or two of the pale pink flouncy aquilegias, to make way for better colours, but it’s hard!

  5. I love aquilegias, and that ‘Ruby Port’ is a gorgeous colour. I’m waiting for ‘Fragrans’ to flower too, though I clearly had another label mishap, as two that I had labelled ‘fragrans’ have emerged a rather striking deep yellow! Having seen yours are more keen than ever to see some of mine come true. I’m also after more ‘Black Barlow’, hoping that some of the seed will breed approximately true, and I also spotted a very pretty pale pink one growing in the lane on my way to vote, so seed will be collected from that one too. I think aquilegias are rather addictive…

    • Are the A. fragrans supposed to always be pale in colour then? I haven’t really researched them, just sowed some seeds my Mum gave me 🙂 I too love the black ruffles of Black Barlow, one we don’t have here yet. I think you could be right about the addictive nature of Aquilegias!

  6. I’m rather jealous of your ‘lime sorbet’ as mine never took 😦 I think the rabbits got them and sadly all my remaining aquilegias have merged into a single purple colour, still they do look pretty bobbing in the wind. Bethx

    • Ah, sad for you Lime Sorbet, ours seemed to germinate and grow on very strongly here… I really like the purple ones, can definitely think of worse colours for aquilegias to merge into… 🙂

  7. I love aquilegias, and haven’t seen many since I moved to Nova Scotia, Canada two years ago. I’ve just planted a new garden and have put some in, lets hope they are as prolific as your!

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