Sandy's Garden ... Alison and Aquilegia

What a wonderful day we had on a recent Saturday.
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With not a breath of wind to ruffle the smallest leaf, we sat on the cushioned seats beneath the parasols over coffee with our guests watching, amongst other things, rather a lot of wasps dipping their toes into the water in our bird bath and drinking greedily.

I’d never thought of wasps being thirsty, but these ones most certainly were! Nor, frankly, had I ever thought of drinking my coffee in very close proximity to wasps slaking their thirst, each content to leave the other to their own devices, for the wasps showed no interest in our guests or us although, presumably, they were aware that we were watching them.

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Whatever, when the coffee was finished, Alison … our gardening guru … and I set about our self-appointed tasks for the remainder of the day.

Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy SimpsonFalkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson
Falkirk Herald gardening guru Sandy Simpson

I had resolved to trim some rather overgrown shrubs and to slim down a distinctly overweight hedge while Alison was determined to deadhead a plethora of plants and to relocate several bushes which I had made a poor job of positioning.

Alison, I might add, studied horticulture at Threave Gardens and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh for six years and has forgotten more than I shall ever know about every aspect of gardening.

She assisted in the design of our garden and led the small team who built it the better part of thirty years ago; and she still has a proper proprietorial interest in it, travelling up from her present home in Peterhead several times a year to do clever horticultural things for us and to advise on the care of ‘her’ garden.

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Alison asked if she could take some of the aquilegia seed back to Peterhead to let children sow it and watch the plants grow.

Aquilegia, as Alison knew full well, is ridiculously easy to grow.

It’s a hardy perennial plant which is not at all bothered by Scottish winters even in Peterhead.

You can grow it in pots … it will reach a height of something in the order of 50-60 centimetres … or in the garden, and, fully-grown, it will spread to about 50cm wide.

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Aquilegia will die back naturally in the autumn, when they are best trimmed to ground level – you can rest assured they will reappear come the spring.

Individual plants do not enjoy long lives, but aquilegia self-seeds … you’ll find it appears in your garden in places where you didn’t plant it … and young plants, which may well produce flowers which are a different colour to that of their progenitors, consistently take the places of their life-expired parents.

This self-seeding habit also gives you a ready supply of plant presents for your friends! Which, conveniently, brings us back to Alison, who is happy to grow ‘columbine’, or ‘granny’s bonnet’ ... to mention two common names by which aquilegia is known … from seed without waiting for the seed from my plants to germinate before collecting some seedlings in eight months’ time.

I’d expect them to do well in Aberdeenshire for they are deer resistant and rabbit resistant … the seeds and roots are dangerously toxic … although I doubt whether they will interest too many hummingbirds, which find them very attractive indeed.

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