Columbines, sometimes called “Granny’s bonnets”, are cool weather plants that stop flowering when the weather gets hot. The genus name “Aquila” is the Latin word for “eagle” because spurs on the blooms resemble talons.
The common name “Columbine,” also from the Latin, means “dove” because the five tubular petals of the flower look like five doves bent over. Our native bicolor columbine “Aquilegia Canadensis” has reddish and yellow blooms.
The European columbine “Vulgaris” has violet-blue flowers. Most columbines are short lived in our gardens but self sow in well drained good soil in sun or filtered shade. The sky-blue Rocky Mountain Columbine with a white center is the state flower of Colorado where it loves the cool mountain air.
Container grown columbines may be planted at any time as long as they are well watered. These dainty plants with their intricate nodding flowers inspired Francis Jammes to write this:
“Two blue flowers were blowing in a breeze on a hill and one said to the other, I cannot hold still I tremble beside you…”
In Middle Ages it was considered bad luck if this flower was given to a woman. But nowadays, gardeners of both genders cherish them.