Monday, 9 May 2011
Aquilegias which are well known for their promiscuous and perfidious behaviour are certainly living up to their reputation in my garden this spring. I can only recall planting one aquilegia in this border - the delightful two toned 'Nora Barlow' which is said to come true from seed. Yet this spring I have a pink tinged double white, a blue tinged double white, a dusky single pink, purple ~ both single and double as well as a most dubious two toned purple and white. I know that the all purple has probably drifted in from around the corner but as to the others I am left guessing their parentage. I think that 'Nora Barlow' is probably sulking as she is behind the others and has still to open fully. It may interest you to know that the Nora Barlow who this plant was named after was Charles Darwin's granddaughter. She was a keen gardener and lived to the age of 104. She studied genetics at Cambridge and attempted to hybridise various flowers including aquilegias. However the 'Nora Barlow' aquilegia was almost certainly not the result of one of her own experiments, since a similar form was known going back to the sixteenth century. 'Nora Barlow' grew in her own garden though and a friend was to pass on seed to the nurseryman Alan Bloom of Bressingham with the suggestion that he might like to stock the plant. A condition was that the plant was named 'Nora Barlow'.
If you are a fan of aquilegias and can travel to the Swansea area you might like to visit 'Touchwood', the garden of Carrie Thomas, who holds a national collection of aquilegia vulgaris and aquilegia hybrids. The garden is due to open this month ~ see here for details. Carrie also welcomes visitors by appointment at other times. She also sells a range of aquilegia seeds as well as seed of other cottage garden plants.