We all agree on a love of dainty columbine

The dainty blooms of aquilegia.
The dainty blooms of aquilegia.
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Not everyone wants a cottage garden.

Some people regard them as old-fashioned, requiring far too much work for a short-lived blast of colour. Others, see them as all that’s best in British horticulture. Both sides agree to disagree.

However, there seems to be one thing that unites them – the love of the columbine. The dainty, delicious (the caterpillars of several species of moths and butterflies love the leaves) blooms of aquilegia are unmistakeable and have long been a firm favourite.

Aquilegia vulgaris, the wild species, stand about a meter tall and is usually blue, with nodding ‘bonnets’, but many purple, mauve, pink and white colour variants have developed. The big favourites today are the double-flowered forms.

All columbines are relatively easy to grow from seed, come in wide variety of colours and heights, and are early flowerers.

Aquilegias are dainty plants but can withstand quite a bit of punishment, especially if they are given the care and attention they deserve. In late spring they appreciate a mulch and in dryish spells they should be watered regularly.

Partial shade is ideal although they also seem to thrive in full sun.