The aquilegia has the quaint common name of grannies’ bonnet, a reference to its bonnet shaped flowers, and like most of the cottage garden flowers has an old-world charm that has been much loved and admired by generations of gardeners.
Botanically known as aquilegia, the name is derived from the Latin aquila, meaning “eagle” and legos “to gather” and is thought to refer to the spurs found at the base of the flower that resemble the talons of an eagle.
These clump forming perennials are easily grown and look quite at home in an informal garden where they will reseed and appear in the most unlikely places. Their habit of interbreeding freely makes it difficult to keep aquilegias true to name and character so plant different types apart in the garden.
Aquilegias prefer to grow in soil that is enriched with organic matter such as aged compost.
Like most cottage garden plants they require well drained, but moist, soils especially in the summer. They love full sun but remember to keep their roots moist and cool by mulching. Being perennials they die down in winter and during this dormant period they can be dug up and carefully divided and replanted immediately so the root crown doesn’t dry out.
Apply a fertiliser in late winter just as the new, often blue-green, fern-like foliage appears.
Due to extensive breeding by hybridisers, aquilegias come in a range of colours from purest white, blue and purple, deep maroon with many different shades, red and yellow as well as beautiful bi-colours. The range of flower shapes is just as impressive with bell shaped, down facing, trumpets and up-facing forms which mean that aquilegias appear in an array of flower shapes unsurpassed by many other flowers in the garden. They may also have long spurs at the back of the flowers or short, curved spurs facing inwards. The size range is from 30cm to 1 metre tall.
This member of the buttercup family adds a cheerfulness to the summer garden especially when planted in drifts or groups. They are also a great choice for woodland, rockeries and sunny herbaceous boarders.
Dwarf aquilegias are excellent for lightly shaded places with reasonably moist soil. Aquilegia alpina has eye-catching rich blue, nodding flowers with golden hearts on 30cm stems. These are ideal for rock gardens. Excellent as cut flowers.
To encourage prolonged flowering nip off spent flowers but allow a few to run to seed to ensure these beautifully enchanting plants can spread willy-nilly throughout the garden.
November 18-19: The Longford Garden Club will host their 49th Spring Flower Show on Saturday from 1.45-5pm and Sunday from 10.00am-4pm at the Longford Town Hall, Wellington Street, Longford. Displays of cut flowers, floral art, irises, roses, refreshments and well stocked plant stalls. Entry $2.
November 18-19: Longford Blooms Open Gardens from 10am to 4pm. Tickets and map available at the Antique Shop opposite the Longford Town Hall on the day.
November 21: The Australian Plant Society meets at Max Fry Hall, Gorge Rd, Trevallyn, Launceston at 7.30pm. Alan Gray will speak on eucalyptus. Visitors, who are welcome to attend the meeting at no charge, will be able to gain expert advice on gardening with native plants from the friendly members over a cup of tea or coffee.
Information on the APST can be obtained from its website at www.apstasnorth.org
Daily: The Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden, at Romaine, Burnie is a world renowned tourist attraction with a stunning floral display of rhododendrons that will leave you speechless. Open from 9am-5pm. Tea room open from 10am-4pm.