About Good Scents

The cut flower business ended in 2011 but I continue to post other items about gardening.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Aquilegia (Columbines)

Columbines bloom during the May Slow Time and they make quite nice cut flowers but I have had problems growing them. During a trip to England in 2000, I fell in love with some beautiful hybrid columbine I saw at the Chelsea Flower Show. The flowers of these columbines had white centers contrasting with intensely colored petals of burgundy, royal purple, red and several shades of pink.

Aquilegia 'Swan Violet and White'

They are sold as the Swan and Songbird series in the United States and when I started Good Scents I knew these were the columbines I wanted to grow. These hybrids are easy enough to grow except they are particularly susceptible to attack by the columbine saw fly. These tiny pests are easy enough to eliminate by hand picking or using insecticidal soap but they are nearly invisible and I often don’t notice they have arrived until suddenly the columbines are half defoliated.

Last year I was more vigilant than I have been in the past so hopefully my customers will be seeing some nice columbine in May 2008. However, to hedge my bets for 2009, I am going to start some other columbines this year that seem a little less bothered by the saw fly. The first is the Barlow Series.

Aquilegia 'Nora Barlow'

These are sometimes sold as individual names like Christa Barlow, Blue Barlow and so on. Except for the leaves, the Barlows don’t look much like what most people think of as a columbine. The flowers are double but also smaller and spurless. They look more like a wild flower and depending on your taste may seem plain or exquisitely refined when compared to the flashy hybrids. The second columbine I’m glowing is called Lime Sorbet. The flowers also small, double, spurless and supposedly green(ish) but white with green centers will be fine with me.

Aquilegia 'Lime Sorbet'

The leaves of these columbines are thicker and a little more leathery than the hybrids and seem to be less susceptible to attack by the saw fly.

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