Plant of the Month – May 2012

This month’s flower is one I’ve loved since childhood and perhaps my choice is a bit predictable, it being a staple (along with tulips) of pretty much every Chelsea show garden I’ve ever seen (and certainly most of the ones I’ve liked) but I’m not going to apologise for that. It’s unashamedly romantic, perhaps sometimes even a bit twee but I love it, so there.

Aquilegia vulgaris

Aquilegia vulgaris

A.v. ‘Nora Barlow’ was one of the first plants I really fell in love with when I started gardening ‘properly’:

Aquilegia 'Nora Barlow'

It grows in one of the rose borders which I stuffed with herbaceous perennials early on in my time at the towers. The other aquilegia I planted in that border is the dramatic ‘William Guiness’:

Aquilegia 'William Guiness'

Good old William and Nora have been getting busy in the border and have had several love children, though I also suspect Aquilegia vulgaris may have been joining in at times (oh I say!):



They are happy in most soils and like sun or partial shade and will seed around, although the babies won’t ‘come true’ from their parents, you can see from the examples above (and take my word for it, there are lots of others) that the results are often interesting in their own right. Strict deadheading would prevent this if you wanted to (but I reserve the right to call you a spoilsport).

I grew some from seed that the packet claimed were a ‘Nora Barlow Mix’ (so they should have all had the spurless double shape which is so distinctive) and while they were double and very pretty, they weren’t a Nora Barlow type so I would caution ‘buyer beware’ when it comes to seed packets. I planted the results in my new border last autumn:



If I was a granny I’d be quite happy with one of these bonnets!


7 responses to “Plant of the Month – May 2012

  1. With you on aquilegias, Libby and certainly Mr Guinness but the Nora is just taking it too far and is too frilly (grumpily imho). I didn’t deadhead last year and have carpets of seedlings – as if I didn’t have enough weeding to do. The self sown wishier-washier pinks I shall remove this year. I prefer the darker ones. Dave

    • I’m not usually a frilly sort of person and I don’t think of NB as frilly for some reason. At least rogue aquilegias will be pretty if you never get round to removing them!

  2. I just love aquilegia and Norah Barlow this year seems to be the only one that has grown true. I had William Guiness for a few years but ye have disappeared. I love the way they self seed in the oddest of places.

    • That is the problem with allowing them their shenanigans in the beds, you do end up, after a few years of fun, with a lot of plain blue ones.

  3. patientgardener

    I was told that if you sow seeds of a named variety such aas Nora Barlow unless you have got them from a reputable company there is a good chance they wont come true to form as Acquilega cross pollinate and they also have a habit of reverting to their origins.

    I like the ones with the long spurs best

  4. As a granny I dislike frills and never wear such bonnets but am just as surpised by how the offspring turn out in the end. Prompted me to venture out beyond vulgaris and get some variety in the spring borders.

  5. I just wish the flowers would last longer on Granny’s Bonnet!

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