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Aquilegia ‘Origami Rose & White’ (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)
Aquilegia ‘Origami Rose & White’ (photo courtesy of Thomas J. Story)

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Zone
Zones A2, A3, 1-10, 14-24, 32-45
Full SunPartial Sun
Full, Partial
Regular Water
Moderate

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Woodside Gold’

European Columbine
Ranunculaceae
Perennials

AQUILEGIA

Lacy foliage and beautifully poised flowers in exquisite pastels, deeper shades, and white give columbines a fairylike, woodland-glen quality. Plants are erect and range from 2 in. to 4 ft. high, depending on species or hybrid.

Divided leaves reminiscent of maidenhair fern (Adiantum) may be fresh green, blue green, or gray green. Slender, branching stems carry erect or nodding flowers to 3 in. across, often with sepals and petals in contrasting colors; they usually have backward-projecting, nectar-bearing spurs. Some columbines have large flowers and very long spurs; these have an airier look than short-spurred and spurless kinds. Double-flowered types lack the delicacy of the single-flowered sort, but they make a bolder color mass. Bloom season comes in spring and early summer.

Plants are not fussy about soil as long as it is well drained. On all columbines, cut back old stems for a second crop of flowers. Most are not long-lived and will need to be replaced every 3 or 4 years. Allow spent flowers to form seed capsules to ensure a crop of volunteer seedlings. If you’re growing hybrids, the seedlings won’t necessarily duplicate the parent plants, but seedlings from species (if grown isolated from other columbines) should closely resemble the originals. Leaf miners are a potential pest, especially on hybrids.

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Blue Barlow’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)
Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Blue Barlow’ (photo courtesy of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials)

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Aquilegia vulgaris

Native to Europe. Plants grow 1–3 ft. tall. Nodding flowers to 2 in. across; short, knobby spurs about 3/4 in. long. Many selections and hybrids offer single to fully double blooms in blue, purple, and white, either short spurred or spurless. Foliage is green to blue-green, can go purple in fall.

This self-sows readily in Northwest gardens, has naturalized in the eastern United States. It also interbreeds with other columbines growing in the garden, usually with unimpressive results.

‘Woodside Gold’

Grows 20 in. tall and wide, with gold and green variegated foliage. You can get selections with blue, red, or white flowers.

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