November 22, 2017

Caroline’s Garden Diaries 9.6.13: Hawks or Doves?

Years ago, I read that another name for Columbines was “Doves in a Basket” because the flower looks like a group of doves – penny-dropping moment, realizing that Columbine came from Latin for dove, columba; that its botanical name, Aquilegia, comes from Latin for eagle, aquila, and that all these names were saying the same thing, these flowers look remarkably like birds. They really do! Can never see them now without seeing fluttering wings, and gentle necks; some people see more eagle than dove (all right, not hawks), and one I know sees vultures. This revelation also taught me that flower names often tell you something.

Another name for Aquilegias is Granny’s Bonnet, which I think refers to a form in which, so to speak, the birds’ heads are tucked under their wings, unless Granny has a bunch of vultures on her head. I’ve also got a delightful form, looking like a little girl’s ballet dress, pale pink frills under purple skirt.

All these have come over several years letting only the best-looking columbines seed themselves (and chopping off heads of those I don’t like…). When we first came here, there were only rather washed-out pink ones in the garden and I missed all the whites, blues, purples, deep-pinks doves and bonnets that I’d had in our old garden. Luckily, I brought about ten seedlings with me that must have brought their blue genes with them; they’ve intermingled and produced some real beauties.

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