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Every garden border deserves at least one aquilegia

If you’re looking for a versatile and hardy perennial to add colour to your garden border this spring, then Ladybrook Nursery can thoroughly recommend the aquilegia. Aquilegias, also known as the columbines, are beautiful perennial plants most commonly found in meadows and woodlands at higher altitudes throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Aquilegias, derived from the Latin name for ‘eagle’, are perhaps best known for the spurred petals of their flowers which are said to resemble an eagle’s claw.

Aquilegias are floriferous woodland perennials. They grow best in partial shade, but can tolerate both full sun and full shade. Once established, aquilegias are drought tolerant and will thrive in dry summer soils. However, aquilegias are not good plants to divide, so if you want to add to your stocks you will need to propagate from seed. 

Although the aquilegia genus encompasses some 60 to 70 species, Ladybrook Nursery stocks just 5, but these 5 plants are stunning and reliable performers:

Aquilegia ‘Crimson Star’

‘Crimson Star’ is an upright, clump-forming, herbaceous perennial with deeply lobed, mid-green leaves and stems bearing pendant flowers with red sepals and creamy white petals from late spring to midsummer. ‘Crimson Star’ is best grown in in loose, loamy, well-drained soil that holds moisture in dry weather. Avoid wet conditions. Best in partial shade but will tolerate sunny conditions with adequate moisture.

Type: perennial

Height: 60cm

Foliage: green

Flower colour: red sepals with creamy white petals

Flowering: spring to summer

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Aquilegia ‘Vulgaris Alba’

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Alba’ is an upright plant, clump-forming perennial plant with divided, light green leaves and delicate, single, pure white flowers, with short, curled spurs. ‘Alba’ will tolerate most soils, but it is best grown in fertile, moist but well-drained, soil in full sun or partial shade.

Type: perennial

Height: 90cm

Foliage: light green

Flower colour: single pure white with short curled spurs

Flowering: spring to summer

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Black Barlow’

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Black Barlow’, also known as granny’s bonnet, has beautiful, fully-double, spur-less purple-black flowers in late spring, rising above fern-like green leaves. ‘Black Barlow’ is equally at home in cottage-garden schemes or among grasses. It thrives best in soil that retains moisture over the summer. It is easy to grow and quite short-lived, but self-seeds freely, though rarely to the point of becoming a nuisance.

Type: perennial

Height: 90cm

Foliage: light green fern-like

Flower colour: purple-black double

Flowering: spring to summer

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Blue Barlow’

Aquilegia ‘Blue Barlow’ (Barlow Series), also known as granny’s bonnet, is an erect, clump-forming, herbaceous perennial with divided, dark green leaves and nodding, spur-less, double, violet-blue flowers in late spring and early summer. ‘Blue Barlow’ will tolerate most soils, but it is best grown in fertile, moist but well-drained, soil in full sun or partial shade.

Type: perennial

Height: 90cm

Foliage: light green fern-like

Flower colour: violet-blue double

Flowering: spring to summer

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

Aquilegia x. hybrida ‘White Star’

Aquilegia x. hybrida ‘White Star’, also known as ‘Crystal Star’ is a long-spurred aquilegia with pure white flowers. ‘White Star’ is an upright, clump-forming, herbaceous perennial with divided, light green leaves and showy white and cream flowers, with short, curled spurs that bloom in late spring to early summer. ‘White Star’ will tolerate most soils, but it is best grown in fertile, moist but well-drained, soil in full sun or partial shade.

Type: perennial

Height: 60cm

Foliage: light green fern-like

Flower colour: pure white upward facing

Flowering: spring to summer

Aspect: full sun to partial shade

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