Aquilegia is commonly called columbine and is a group of perennial plants grown for their spectacular flower forms in a range of colour combinations. The blooms attract many pollinators as well as butterflies and hummingbirds. The foliage is a blue-green colour, arranged in clumps of scalloped leaves. The flowers have outspread petals and a spur that resembles a bird's beak. The perennial spreads easily and self-sows, thereby increasing the patch of columbine. Nora Barlow is one of the oldest cultivars, said to be named after Charles Darwin's granddaughter. It has soft pink, green and white petals.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Peat moss
- Aquilegia Barlow seeds
- Plastic bag
Amend the soil in a partially sunny location. Use a tiller to break up clods and incorporate 5 inches of compost to add nutrients and texture to the soil. Columbines produce more compact growth in sandy soils, so add 4 inches of sand to the bed. Rake the area even and remove any weeds or other debris.
Hasten germination by stratification. This is the process of breaking dormancy by introducing cold to the seeds just as they would experience in nature during the winter. Moisten peat moss and enfold the seeds. Place the bundle in a plastic bag and seal it. Put the bag in the refrigerator for at least 30 days.
Moisten the bed to a depth of 3 inches and surface-sow the seeds when temperatures are 21.1 degrees Celsius during the day. Sprinkle vermiculite over the seed lightly to prevent it from blowing away. Keep the area misted and damp on the top so the seeds have a constant contact with the wet soil to ensure germination.
Keep weeds from the bed. Germination will take one to four weeks. Thin the Barlow columbine to 12 inches apart. If transplanting, move them when the plants are 5 inches high. Dig very deeply because Aquilegia produces a hug taproot. Place plants in a sun-dappled location.
Remove the seed heads in fall to prevent the flowers from growing everywhere. To save seed for spring, store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The Nora Barlow will remain evergreen in all but the coldest zones. The plant can also be cut back and will resprout when temperatures warm in spring.
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