Aquilegias are about as feminine and frilly as you can get. And at this time of year, they are everywhere. They self-seed wildly, and romp around your garden until you have to ask them to calm down.
As with every well-known plant, there’s more to this species than those purple frilly flowers which pop up everywhere. And to introduce F&F readers to some of the most exquisite cultivars, national collection holder Carrie Thomas gives us a tour of some of the aquilegias she grows in her garden at Touchwood.
Above: Nora Barlow
Apricot, pink and creamy yellow double Aquilegia vulgaris.
Light orange and yellow double Aquilegia vulgaris.
Light marbled blue Aquilegia stellata.
Double indigo and white pom-pom Aquilegia vulgaris.
Red and yellow double Aquilegia vulgaris.
Double yellow Aquilegia vulgaris.
Carrie Thomas of Touchwood Plants’ top tips for growing Aquilegia:
1. You can only grow Aquilegias from seed. Sow from January to March, and be patient: germination may take up to three months. The plants will not flower for the first year, but then they will reward you with flowers year after year, as well as self-sown seedlings.
2. Seedlings don’t always come true, so you may have some delightful surprises (as well as disappointments) when they first flower. Stellata forms (these are the clematis-flowered and ‘Barlow’ aquilegias) usually come true from seed. This is because the flowers have no nectar, and thus there is no cross-pollination by bees.
3. If you’re not sue which plants to start with, choose a seed mix, which means you can slowly make your growing collection more specific in later years. The main thing is to grow them: a garden is incomplete without them.
4. Aquilegias are slug and snail-proof plants.
5. These plants survive in almost any sort of soil (so long as they are not left waterlogged in winter), and tolerate shade as well as thriving in sunny conditions.