I had been reading Anna Pavord's book, The Curious Gardener through the summer and really enjoyed it. Short vignettes, moments in her gardening life, not unlike a latter-day Vita Sackville-West, and with a list of tasks for each month. I was finding these interesting and relevant, and actually unwittingly following some of them, until I reached the one that suggests you uproot stray and unwanted aquilegias to stop them colonising.
Oh I wish...
Our little terraced cottage in Tavistock had zillions of them in the garden and we found out why when we eventually walked across to the Manor House opposite, on the day after the big house and grounds had been sold at auction. Our row of six cottages had originally been homes for the staff, and there, scattered around the Manor House gardens, drifts of columbines exactly like ours... seeds had obviously 'crossed the road' and come back home with the gardener. The big
house long-demolished and the grounds now a new housing estate but I often wonder if any of those seeds survived the upheaval and have sprung up unbidden in the new gardens. It would seem fitting and entirely possible for aquilegias.
Apart from the savage and heartless plundering of the house on the day of the auction... walls smashed and fireplaces, and fixtures and fittings ripped out and probably in London by the same evening, the saddest demise over at the Manor House was that of the old greenhouse. We wandered around with the children and actually took a cutting of the massive oleander growing inside, and Bookhound did a sketch (will you all please insist that he starts painting again) which we still have hanging in the kitchen as a lovely reminder, and which may explain our covetousness about greenhouses ever since...
It was about the time of The Victorian Kitchen Garden TV series and all enough to inspire us to build that lovely greenhouse that we left behind.... and we have the series on DVD to watch through this winter, so lord knows what we'll be doing this spring as a result. Expect a walled garden or something.
We brought aquilegia plants with us from that cottage garden when we moved here, and have bought more over the years, but somehow all but one has disappeared under everything else (geraniums and thistles probably), but I have always loved them so I have rescued the one, found a couple of tiny new seedlings from it and am working on their return. Aquilegia 'Little Common' and 'Bath' (thank you Fran in Little Common and Carol in Bath) are both up and growing, and I have lots of seeds pricked out in pots and hunkered down in a nursery bed where I can watch them like a hawk, varieties reading a bit like the cast list from Coronation Street...'William Guiness', 'Nora Barlow' along with 'Rhubarb and Custard', 'Oranges and Lemons', 'Dragonfly', 'Yabeana', 'Perfumed Garden', 'Woodside' and 'Honeydew' plus a couple bought as plants, 'Black Barlow' and ' Winkies.'
'Our Lady's Shoes', 'Doves Around a Plate', 'Doves at the Fountain', 'Doves in the Ark' and of course 'Columbines' (Latin for 'dove-like,') all names various for aquilegias so I feel an affinity and duty-bound to succeed, but I love the sense of continuity too, the thought that they have grown in gardens since the thirteenth century even appearing in illuminated manuscripts.
I doubt we'll be in possession of the National Collection any time soon but I have discovered Carrie Thomas ( who is in possession of the National Collection) ) and have already headed to her website for advice and to order more seeds. If we are not inundated with aquilegias I shall be very disappointed, and I care not where they pop up in years to come, they have three quarters of an acre to choose from here, nor am I worried how much of a cross-pollination muddle they become, I just can't wait to see them flower next spring, perhaps looking a little like Gertrude Jekyll's in places would be nice...
'...a free planting of graceful pale-coloured Columbines with long spurs, garden kinds that come easily from seed and that were originally derived from some North American species. They are pale yellow and warm white ; some have the outer portion of the flower of a faint purple, much like that of some of the patches in an old, much-washed, cotton patchwork quilt.'