Never late for the dance

The Columbines have definitely been intent on increasing their numbers this spring.Ancolie7 And why wouldn't they? It always helps to have enough dance partners attending the annual spring fête. Many showed up this year to create a dance well worth watching as it unfolded for days on end.

Columbines will always have a pride of place in my garden. I love the way they appear wherever their hearts' desire. The fun part is that one never quite knows what colours they will be – from pale yellow and white flowers one spring, lovely blue flowers appeared the next. Ancolie5.

This year, the 
dark mauve/blues predominated with a few magenta and shell pinks emerging as well.

As with all flowers in my garden, the conversations between the Columbines have been entertaining and have made for some fascinating eavesdropping.

I discovered that, even though my plants are not long-lived and self seed merrily, they are well aware of their long histories and their medicinal uses for centuries. Ancolie2

They love the way their name originated and enjoyed hearing me read to them from  Marina Heilmeyer's book, The Language of Flowers (p. 20):

There is no clear explanation for the Late or Middle Latin name aquilegia the monks gave to the columbine. The term may derive from the Latin aquila, the 'eagle', because the spurs of the flower resemble an eagle's hooked beak and talons. The shape of the bloom's nectar gland does slightly resemble a dove, hence the English name columbine (from Latin columba 'dove'). This in turn led to the flower of the columbine taking the place of the dove as the symbol of the Holy Ghost….

The plants quite like knowing that they were planted in monastery and castle gardens alike, as early as the twelfth century, both for medicinal purposes and for their beauty.


When I told them of their importance as a protection against evil spirits and as an aphrodisiac, well, they were most content.

Of course, they said, we could have told you that just as easily. They were quite aware, said they, that people saw a pentagram in their flower shapes and that's how their ability to keep evil at bay originated. 

They also were delighted to discover that William Morris had a particular fondness for them, planting them in his gardens and including them in his designs.

23 thoughts on “Never late for the dance

  1. Hi Kate,
    From you I have learned yet another name of a flower. Thank you. The photos are lovely — I’m really fond of purples.
    The historic background pleased me also — especially the bit about the monasteries.

  2. Kate, What a delightful post. It is only this year that I have really appreciated the Columbines in the garden. So much so – that although they self seed I have planted seeds of different varieties for next year. Now thanks to your post – I feel I know this plant better and I like the fact that they were planted in monastery gardens in the 12C

  3. Kate, I had not heard most of this Columbine lore. I am so glad you shared it with us. Most of my Columbine is the wild one. I do have a few whites but the blues have never come back. Our columbines are long gone. I can just imagine what a wonderful spring you are having now. I love the time when the Columbines bloom. This always means that the hummingbirds will be returning shortly.

  4. I have had lots of columbine in the garden this year also. I’m always trying to lay down on the grass to get a good photo of the inside of the blooms. 🙂

  5. Wow! **smacks self in forehead** I never actually “saw” the pentagrams in their flower shapes until you mentioned it here. I mean, I think I was aware of it, but just not consciously. I’m still shaking my head over that. 🙂

  6. So true, Kate! My faves are the delicate natives, Aquilegia canadensis, with their delicate red-and-yellow blooms, but when left to themselves, the rest of mine like to self-sow and turn deep purple. Which is fine with me–they still bring in the hummingbirds! Being a falconer at heart, I’ve always loved these fierce little flowers.

  7. Dear Columbines, I do love them, such pretty things and yet so modest.
    If only the slugs didn’t love them as well…

  8. Protects against evil. Well that would explain why I suddenly needed to have so many many more in my garden last year and why they are reproducing with such profusion. Or was it just cause they are so darn pretty, brightening up this time of year. P.S. Kate I’ve missed you on my epic journey this summer. See you in August.

  9. Gorgeous photos and such an interesting story behind columbines! Now I’m wishing I had gone on that tour of William Morris’s home. I love his patterns. We have the willow branch fabric on our sofa and curtains in Maine. I never tire of it.

  10. Great colors you have.
    What a lot of information you get hanging around the garden. Now, I have to go check out my William Morris quilting fabric to see if I have any columbine prints.

  11. Columbines, including some doubles, are stars in my garden in mid-May. I would not want to have a garden without them! I enjoyed learning more about them, and the way you presented the information. My columbines thank you, from across the miles.
    Carol, May Dreams Gardens

  12. Hello Kate wonderful to read about the medicinal properties and historical significance of the columbine.

  13. the lessons you teach here are interesting, and i must link my husband to this post today. columbines are one of his favorite plants in our gardens. our sky blue one is my favorite, but he is enamored of his black one.

  14. I so love columbine. I have the native ones, a pretty pink, white and two colors of mauve/purple.
    The seed you sent me that I placed in the ground during our cold spring has finally taken flight. I don’t even recall what was in it, but that is the pure joy of gardening. Sometimes a tiny little shoot will be the most delightful surprise!

  15. We don’t have colombines here, but every time I visit my son and family in Denver, I see thousands of Blue Colombines and they are wonderful. Love your post!

  16. You have such intelligent plants, Kate, and they’re beautiful too 🙂
    The blue of those columbines is dreamy, and I love the pink too. They are a truly wonderful shape, aren’t they? I haven’t looked for eagles and doves in them before, but now I see them. Thanks for that little bit of history.
    I hope you’re feeling well and enjoying spending time in your garden. Isn’t summer wonderful?

  17. Imagine how fabulous a dress would look in that mauve colour – or a scarf. I would dance along the street in it. What a lovely post!

  18. Hi Kate, how funny, just in the moment I see that we both let the columbines dance (my columbines were in Swan lake ballet). I love this plants so much. And in your next post the Geranium “face” is a really great shot!!! My favourite Geranium is “Rozanne” but I like all of them.
    Have a great week end Wurzerl

  19. Just devoted my second Green Thumb Sunday to columbine–they’re so lovely, I don’t understand why some people don’t like them. Yours are beautiful, and you weave in the background info beautifully as well.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s