Columbine - The flowering Champion!

Friday, 19 October 2018

By Deb Delahunty - Horticulture teacher, Wodonga TAFE

Some plants have the most wonderful common names, and this is one of them. Botanically named Aquilegia this plant is commonly known as Columbine or Granny’s Bonnet. In the garden the Granny’s Bonnet is an absolute champion and it produces masses of flowers effortlessly. The foliage is fern-like and lacy – beautiful on its own but made even more spectacular when the flowers appear from mid-spring through until summer.

Photo – A spectacular yellow Granny’s Bonnet growing in the grounds of Wodonga TAFE – they might look delicate but they’re easy to grow and hardy to boot.

Granny’s Bonnets are usually at their best when the spring flowering bulbs begin to fade, they are perfect for keeping the garden interesting and alive with colour.

I’m amazed at just how many hybrids and varieties there are – ranging from singles to doubles, and a range of colours from light shades to bright blues, yellows and reds.

When it comes to placement in the garden they will be at their best with a bit of dappled shade. In most areas they will grow well in full sun, but in our region a bit of shade is preferable. They like a well-drained soil which is rich and has plenty of organic matter added. They seriously dislike any soil that has poor drainage.

Granny’s Bonnet has a very delicate appearance but the plant is quite tough and easy to grow. They are short-lived perennials which means they can last for about three years before they die. They are known for self-seeding quite prolifically – this means you will get plenty of seedlings popping up in the garden.

It’s easy to grow them from seed. You can sow the seed straight into the garden in late winter to early spring for flowering plants the following year. If you want to grow seedlings in pots the seeds will need to be stratified first before you sow them. To stratify you need to place the seed in a plastic bag with a bit of damp soil – then pop the bag in the fridge for a couple of months before spring. Sow the seed as per normal in the spring time.

If the season is damp and rainy you need to be on the lookout for powdery mildew. Granny’s Bonnets are a bit prone to this fungal infection. Cut back any affected leaves and try to improve the air circulation around the plants if you find fungal issues.

Trim off faded flowers to help promote more flowers and lastly cut the whole plant back to ground level when the plant starts its decline – this usually happens when the temperature soars, so in the height of summer.

Enjoy the beauty of this old-fashioned plant – they brighten any garden and are certainly worth growing.

Diary - 2019 Free TAFE for Priority Courses will reduce the barriers for students wanting to train in courses that lead to priority occupations – those in demand from employers in the Victorian economy. This is a Victorian Government initiative. Selected Agriculture and Horticulture courses are included - to find out more about Free TAFE for Priority Courses, including eligibility and course details Phone 1300 MY TAFE (1300 698 233) | Email


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