A tasting of aquilegias

Last spring I ordered masses of seeds from the UK National Plant collection of Aquilegias and the plants raised from these are just starting to bloom. Here is a quick taste of what has been produced. Not all are open yet so I may add another post in a few weeks when there are more in bloom.

Aquilegias are known for their promiscuous breeding habits and they interbreed widely. So although I knew that the packs of seed were ‘ex’ this and ‘ex’ that there would be considerable variation in their offspring. As it has turned out there is HUGE variation in the colours, habits and shapes of the flowers and plants. Some are lovely, some are nice and some are horrible – well in my opinion. Here are a few so you can judge.

STOP PRESS

After the photos is some bad news about a new aquilegia disease – why do these things keep cropping up!

A purple and white in the blue border. I like this one, though it is hardly exceptional.

A purple and white in the blue border. I like this one, though it is hardly exceptional.

Now this one I don't like! I really dislike the muddled doubles where the spurs get jumbled and can't push through the five sepals at the top of the flower. Aquilegias are named after 'aquila' meaning eagle for the claw-like nectaries and also columbines after columba meaning dove. The flowers do look like  a ring of five doves but this one looks a mess. The colours are interesting though.

Now this one I don’t like! I really dislike the muddled doubles where the spurs get jumbled and can’t push through the five sepals at the top of the flower. Aquilegias are named after ‘aquila’ meaning eagle for the claw-like nectaries and also columbines after columba meaning dove. The flowers do look like a ring of five doves but this one looks a mess. The colours are interesting though.

Some blue and whites have intriguing stripes in the petals and although you can't really see it in this photo they are really quite unusual. I will take more photos.

Some blue and whites have intriguing stripes in the petals and although you can’t really see it in this photo they are really quite unusual. I will take more photos.

Plain, pure white on freely branched, sturdy plants. Not ground breaking but nice in the garden

Plain, pure white on freely branched, sturdy plants. Not ground breaking but nice in the garden

A satisfying combination of colours that mimics one of my favourite iris 'Edith Walford'

A satisfying combination of colours that mimics one of my favourite iris ‘Edith Wolford’

I don't get that excited about doubles but this one is cute enough

I don’t get that excited about doubles but this one is cute enough

Plain but bird like

Plain but bird like

The most remarkable of all are some red-flowered plants. They stood out from the start because of their bronzed foliage but as they have begun blooming they really look very odd. At first I thought they were freaky and nasty but as the flowers have matured I am beginning to like them. The flowers are solitary so the plants have a small bud count and the blooms face upwards or sideways rather than hang but what makes them unusual is that they have VERY small petals so the flowers are starlike. THey are carried just above the foliage on compact but not dwarf plants. So although the flowers are small, overall the plant is really nice. I need to collect seeds of these I think

The most remarkable of all are some red-flowered plants. They stood out from the start because of their bronzed foliage but as they have begun blooming they really look very odd. At first I thought they were freaky and nasty but as the flowers have matured I am beginning to like them. The flowers are solitary so the plants have a small bud count and the blooms face upwards or sideways rather than hang but what makes them unusual is that they have VERY small petals so the flowers are starlike. They are carried just above the foliage on compact but not dwarf plants. So although the flowers are small, overall the plant is really nice. I need to collect seeds of these I think

aquilegia 15 8

Beautiful or freaky?

Beautiful or freaky?

 

Breaking news on Aquilegia Downy Mildew (peronospora)

In 2013 a new disease started to affect aquilegias in the UK and it was first seen in the National Plant Collection in 2014. It has become so severe that the Collection has been badly affected and may be lost. Like most downy mildews it is encouraged by excess nitrogen causing lush growth and by wet, airless conditions. It seems to have subtle symptoms at first but eventually distorts and kills the plants. I do not know much about it at the moment and suggest you look at the two links below if you are interested or if you have found odd things happening to your plants.

How sad that we have grown these lovely plants for centuries and now a disease has come along and spoiled the party.

Touchwood aquilegia page

http://www.touchwoodplants.co.uk/aquilegia-downy-mildew.htm

 

RHS Info page

http://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=866

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5 Comments on “A tasting of aquilegias”

  1. Maria F.
    May 20, 2015 at 7:56 am #

    I also like the iris ‘Edith Wolford’

  2. joy
    May 20, 2015 at 8:14 am #

    it is sad I love aquilegias even the common ones that pop up every year .

    • thebikinggardener
      May 20, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

      Yes, they are always lovely and it is sad that another problem has popped up!

  3. Alberto
    May 20, 2015 at 11:49 pm #

    I love all your aquilegias! I used to grow a lot of them in my parent’s garden, when I was a beginner gardener and now I can’t grow them anymore in my actual garden. I never start from seed because I am pretty unlucky so I bought a couple of plants in the hope they will self seed, which they haven’t, yet. Anyway I love that greenish yellow and bluish purple one, very very particular one. I also like the red star, although it doesn’t seem like a show stopper because the red is not that red and doesn’t really stand out in that foliage, which is peculiar itself. A rarity. I agree with you about the yellow and orange one, good colours for an odd shape, but at the end of the day all columbines are very pretty in a garden, I particularly love their leaves and seed pods. Waiting for another post on aquilegias!

    • thebikinggardener
      May 23, 2015 at 12:24 pm #

      I am sorry to hear that your aquilegias did not self seed. Perhaps they would do better in semi shade in your garden. In the UK they seem to be wild or to be naturalised on alkaline soils so maybe they prefer that though the soil here is acid and they seem perfectly content and the ones that bloomed last year have seeded around. You are right that the leaves are lovely too. There will be another aquilegia post on Monday 🙂

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