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Growing Aquilegias

Discussion in 'General Gardening Discussion' started by shiney, Jun 19, 2011.

  1. shiney

    shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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    Here is some very good info on growing and propagating Aquilegias. Carrie has given me permission to put it on GC and admin has agreed. Here is some other info she has given us about collecting seeds.

    I use plastic labels on each plant, 2 labels at base of plant (careful....some stems intemingle with others!) written in 3 marker types: write-4-all, pencil and was gold marker now printed.

    I collect after the 1st of the 5 parts of seedhead starts to naturally open at the tip....into plastic beakers. so many trips to most plants over about a month.

    Brown envelopes are good. My glassines I get from a stamp collecting place! also try ebay for glassine.

    Aquilegias

    (Granny’s Bonnets, Columbines)

    Information by Carrie Thomas, http://www.touchwoodplants.co.uk/Home.htm

    NCCPG National Plant Collection Holder of Aquilegia vulgaris cultivars & hybrids

    Featured in ‘The English Garden’ April 2006 and ‘Gardener’s World’ May 2007

    Introduction

    Aquilegias have been popular garden plants for many centuries. Unusual forms were not just collected here in the British cottager’s garden, but in many countries: a Dutch artist’s fourteenth century painting shows some very desirable double cultivars! It has always been the unusual colours and the double forms that are always most sought after. There are very many species available, but my collection is made more manageable by just including the cultivars (and hybrids) of the commonest type grown here, our British native: Aquilegia vulgaris. (John Drake, Cambridgeshire, holds a collection of the species.)
    Variability!

    If only the wise know their true fathers, then Aquilegias are very unwise indeed! Indeed, the naming of cultivars is difficult as so many wrongly named plants and synonyms (same name for what appears to be the identical plant) exist. Particular trouble stems from Aquilegias needing to be raised from seed (rather than being vegetatively propagated as most NCCPG collections are). Seedlings always show natural variability but it is compounded in two ways with Aquilegia hybrids. Firstly, the plants are able to easily cross-pollinate between the species (and cultivars), and so, as seed production is invariably by open pollination, bees are busy cross-pollinating and ensure liberal mixing of genes in the next generation. Offspring are thus unlikely to resemble the seed parent in all aspects. Very little seed production is carried out under controlled conditions, which is done by growing the parent plants away from other Aquilegias , ie, outside bees foraging areas.
    Secondly, cultivars are complex hybrids, and may contain many recessive (‘hidden’) genes. This means that even if a plant was ‘selfed’ (that is, its own pollen used to fertilise itself), not all progeny would look the same. This is because offspring will show ‘throwbacks’ where recessive genes are exerting their effect, in the same way that two brown-eyed parents can (legitimately!) have a blue-eyed child. Thus, I ‘selfed’ a beautiful crimson-&-white pom-pom Aquilegia to discover its offspring were very variable indeed! The recessive genes showed up as single forms, less-than-pom-pom double forms and even plain crimson rather than bicoloured, the permutations were numerous!
    Carrie’s cry from the heart!

    Thus, never label an Aquilegia plant with a name until it has flowered and you are sure that it appears true to type. Thank you.

    Useful References

    There is a recent monograph, dealing primarily with the species:
    ‘Columbines: aquilegias, paraquilegia and semiaquilegia’ by Robert Nold, Timber Press ISBN 0-88192-588-8 158pp. Colour illustrated £17.99
    or my video/DVD ‘A Guide to Aquilegias: sowing, growing and breeding’ 90 mins, RR\£14.99. Buy through me at discount: £12 plus £1.50 p&p
    Not suitable for +R only DVD players
    Touchwood aquilegias have been featured in April 2006 ‘The English Garden Magazine, May 2007 Gardener’s World magazine, and filmed by gardeners World in 2006.
    Carrie’s Contact Information

    Garden and National Plant Collection open, plants and seed for sale, including mail order. Website: http://www.touchwoodplants.co.uk/Home.htm
    E-mail: [email protected]
    ‘Touchwood’, 4 Clyne Valley Cottages, Killay, Swansea, SA2 7DU
    01792-522443 For e-mail special interest group, join at: aquilegiachatlist : Aquilegia chatlist

    Propagation

    If you are already getting decent results sowing Aquilegia seed, keep on doing what you’re doing! Otherwise, this is what works for me. I sow in winter, starting whenever I receive seeds (and to suit myself), anytime after Christmas. I keep the 3” pots in an unheated greenhouse (keeps cats etc at bay!). Then I wait. They’ll come up in their own good time.
    I experimented with the 96 types I sowed this year, and by 25th May I’d had 88 which had germinated (92%). I found that my sowings made on 23rd January took an average of 8 weeks 6 days to germinate, yet those sown ten days later (on 2nd Feb) generally came up about the same date, taking only an average of 7 weeks 2 days. Those sown a further 3 weeks later again (20th Feb) were slightly quicker again at 6 weeks 3 days. The longest took over 13 weeks and the shortest just 5 weeks 2 days.
    After germination, thin out to a reasonable number, certainly not more than twice the number you will ‘need’. You can thin out the green-leafed forms from coloured-leaf cultivars at this time (and for white flowered cultivars (or marbled blue or marbled red), select seedlings with no purple in their leaf stems). Prick out when large enough to handle (don’t leave too long as root growth is rapid). First soak the pot with water, then tip out the contents and tease seedlings apart from the edge of the compost ball. I even prick out at the seedling-leaf (cotyledon) stage sometimes. I place them directly where they are to grow on: either in nursery rows in the garden or in grow-bags. This means I need to ‘harden off’ seedlings for a couple of weeksbeforehand……I just leave them in the relatively protected area between my shed and greenhouse.
    Planting into flowering positions may be done at any time from autumn to spring before the flowering shoot appears (though plants can be forgiving even when moved in first-flower stage, if treated understandingly). I have to pot each one up and keep until it flowers in May so that I know they are ‘true-to-type’ and can be correctly named and put into the collection.

    NB The other NCPPG holder, John Drake, advocates sowing immediately when ripe, otherwise a considerable drop in viability occurs. This may well be more important for other species.
    Now……temptation time!

    What to grow? The choice is enormous and growing all the time, eg Ray Brown (Plantworld, Devon), is doing amazing work on breeding new cultivars, especially coloured leaf forms and scented types.

    Here I list a few of my favourites, I usually have them in stock each year.

    White flowers, single. Simplicity at its best.
    ‘William Guiness’ (syn ‘Magpie’) ‘black’-and-white single. There is also a double form available, very desirable, but does it lack the dramatic simplicity of the single? Grow both!
    ‘Strawberry Icecream’, (Plantworld). Exceedingly neat, pleated pink-&-white double, the colour changing halfway up the petals.
    ‘Flamboyant’* Incredible, large double pink & white scented flowers!
    ‘Nora Barlow’. An ‘ancient’ form, totally unlike any other, with many-doubled sepals in an extremely neat spikey arrangement. Each sepal shades from green through cream to rose-pink. Also ‘Barlow relatives’, which are all desirable, especially Black Barlow’
    Blue Streak’ Unusual marbled streaky blue single.
    Tower Light Blue’ A very beautiful marbled/light blue double.
    stellata formsstar forms, or ‘clematis-flowered’. Strange: the flower is flat. Delicate but decidedly different! The white form is delightful, ‘Blue Fountain’* is marbled blue-purple.
    Vervaneana groupAre ones with variegated (eg ‘Woodside’) or golden foliage. Look for Golden Guiness’, gold leaf, black and white flowers: fantastic! ‘Sunburst Ruby’, Gold leaf, ruby double ‘Roman Bronze’, gold leaf, indigo pleated double, ‘Burnished Rose’ gold leaf, pink pleated double, ‘Mellow Yellow’, gold leaf, white double, ‘Elegance’* gold leaf leaf, elegantly held ‘black’ flowers; ‘Sweet Dreams’* variegated stellata coloured pink through cream to green.
    Pom-pom forms Beautiful ‘button’ flowers, also look for rather longer, deeply double forms such as ‘Petticoats’ and ‘Ballerina’
    Red&yellow double*Wonderful: extremely rare, desirable & perennial

    Yes, I do like the rich, deep colours, but don’t forget that the lighter ones always show up better in the garden. *Bred at Touchwood.

    © Carrie Thomas May 2007
     
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    • Aesculus

      Aesculus Bureaucrat 34 (Admin)

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      Wow this is a great post Shiney and I will be sure to file it away for furture use! and thanks to Carrie for writing such a useful article :D

      Also the website link in the post once clicked is the same as the email adresss

      -Carl
       
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      • shiney

        shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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        Thanks Carl :thumbsup:

        That website address is what is on her info but I have now changed it to the home page of the website and hope it works. :D
         
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        • shiney

          shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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          I've just tried it myself and it works :yahoo:
           
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          • Spruce

            Spruce Glad to be back .....

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            Its only 20 mins drive from my house , spring here I come :yess:

            How did I miss this one


            Spruce
             
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            • "M"

              "M" Total Gardener

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              Funtastic!! Just what I needed to know and very well written :dbgrtmb:
               
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              • redstar

                redstar Total Gardener

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                Love these, and should get more of them, so many nice ones out there.
                 
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                • Sheal

                  Sheal Total Gardener

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                  I've had a love hate relationship with Aquilegias down the years but this year have decided to give 'Rhubarb & Custard' a go. The instructions say to sow the seeds and put them in the fridge for three weeks. Is it necessary, opinions please? :)
                   
                • redstar

                  redstar Total Gardener

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                  If I was going to start them from seed, I would just prepare a outdoor soil tray with drain holes. lay the seed on shallow, put it in a protected area, and check in the spring.
                   
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                  • Scrungee

                    Scrungee Well known for it

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                    I've just bought some McKana Giant Hybrid seeds with these sowing instructions - is that fridge stuff really necessary?

                    GC columbine.jpg
                     
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                    • shiney

                      shiney President, Grumpy Old Men's Club Staff Member

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                      I'd leave this to Carrie. She's the expert. :blue thumb:

                      Be aware (nothing to do with your question) that there is a nasty disease going around on the Aquilegias. Keep a close eye on things.
                       
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                      • Carrie Thomas

                        Carrie Thomas Apprentice Gardener

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                        I don't do that, however I do sow most of mine in January and they get an automatic cold period that way, very naturally. My suggestion.... divide packet in half and try half with chilling and half in the usual way AND LET US KNOW WHAT WORKED BEST or were they both the same? Which was easiest etc etc.
                         
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                        • Scrungee

                          Scrungee Well known for it

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                          Where would be best in January, unheated greenhouse, poly tunnel, or cold frame?
                           
                        • Carrie Thomas

                          Carrie Thomas Apprentice Gardener

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                          ANYTHING including outside. i use an unheated greenhouse here in S Wales, but that's mainly for my comfort and to keep all the neighbourhood cats from upsetting the pots!
                           
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                          • Jungle Jane

                            Jungle Jane Middle Class Twit Of The Year 2005

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                            I tried sowing some white aquilegias I got from the seed swap this year and none of them came up. I presumed you were meant to sow them in early spring like most other seeds and so now know where I went wrong. :doh:

                            I saw the bit on Gardeners World about them and shall give this another go in the winter time.

                            I am really skeptical though that "they will grow almost anywhere" as I have some truly terrible clay soil.
                             
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