Carol, over at May Dreams Gardens, has been talking about her columbines, which makes me want to talk about MY columbine.
I'm a big columbine (Aquilegia) fan for several reasons. They're easy and adaptable, have gorgeous intricate flowers, and are one of the few groups of plants that can do the whole range of red, yellow, blue and everything in between including brown, (almost) black, and green. Most of all, though, I love their promiscuous, self-seeding ways.
Regular readers may be beginning to realize that I am sort of obsessed with breeding plants. With most plants, you have carefully pollinate, then collect and grow seeds to get hybrids. But with columbine, just plant two varieties next to each other, and they'll do all the work: bees and humming birds will carry the pollen, and they'll seed the hybrid offspring around without any help from you. So, each year, when a new crop of seedlings comes into bloom, you just get to look through them and pick your favorites to let seed next year.
My current population of columbine is a combination of three groups of plants:
Aquilegia 'Perfumed Garden' which is my favorite commercial strain of columbine -- large flowers in a wide range of colors with a strong, honeysuckle scent. (Photo from Plant World Seeds)
Aquilegia 'Oranges and Lemons' which is a lovely range of oranges, reds, and yellows and theoretically is supposed to bloom all summer, though I haven't seen much rebloom on them yet. (Photo from Plant World Seeds)
Aquilegia viridiflora which has, I think, the most lovely shape of any columbine in the world, and also has a perfectly wonderful fresh, almost herbal scent. (My partner thinks they smell like Irish spring soap.) (Photo from B and T World Seeds)
These three have all been messing about in a most promiscuous fashion, so this year I have some lovely and interesting hybrids between them:
By the way: If you are interested in growing more interesting, fragrant columbine next year, DO check out the selection from Plant World Seeds. They have a mind-boggling array of columbines unlike anything I've seen anywhere else. They are a UK company, but they ship to the US, and are well worth your time.