Yes, they’re ‘old-fashioned flowers’ – see last rant, sorry, post – and yes, I have got a lot of them, but I do love aquilegias (aka columbines) and this seems to be a spectacularly good year for them. I have hundreds. And it’s just as well I love them because, apart from some Black Barlows, I have planted none of them.
They have basically planted themselves, even these, which are not so much granny’s bonnets as granny’s extremely frilly knickers. They must cross with more ease than courgettes and squashes, which is saying a lot. And I have the wild forms in the meadow.
Some of my not-so-wild ones even have elegant spurs, spurs which seem to be getting longer each year they appear (generally in a completely different place to the ones they have inhabited previously).
See? Spurs. Let’s have another:
Never, ever had one like this before, which looks even more like something you might find in a seed catalogue. The only seeds I have sown myself have been those I saved from the Black Barlows – deep, deep purple; doubles; no spurs. I had a quick scout round some of my neighbours gardens, and nothing. Nada.
But I don’t really care. As long as I’ve got them, and continue to have them, they can do what they want. And I’ve no time for William Morris’s disdain of the doubles: ‘the clustering of doves [‘Columbine’ derives from the latin columba, dove] is unmistakeable and distinct in the single, but in the double runs into tatters.’ Huh.
Just occasionally, though, you can have too much of a good thing:
At the back of the bed, or even half way up: no problem. Here, and we have to leap over them every time we want to do anything. Plus they’re squatting on top of some rather nice hardy geraniums, so these at least will be coming out soon. Though they do look good with the stachys. Must remember that.
They’re not just pretty. They have, like many of my old-fashioned flowers, a use. Or maybe that should be ‘had’. Perhaps I hope so: aquilegias are part of the poisonous buttercup family, and Linnaeus said that children had been poisoned by it when given large doses. It was used as an astringent, to cleanse the liver (!), deal with kidney stones, and bring down a high fever (and not always by inducing death). No longer, though, as far as I can tell. But Culpeper approved:
‘The leaves of Columbine are successfully used in lotions for sore mouths and throats. . . . The Spaniards used to eat a piece of the root thereof in a morning fasting many days together, to help them when troubled with stone. The seed taken in wine with a little saffron removes obstructions of the liver and is good for the yellow jaundice.’
Happily I don’t suffer from yellow jaundice or an obstructed liver, nor am I troubled with stone, and I’m not going near it as a cure for a sore mouth or throat, so I’ll just enjoy my columbines.
What’s not to like?