This section is from the book "Handbook Of Hardy Trees, Shrubs, And Herbaceous Plants", by W. Botting Hemsley. Also available from Amazon: Handbook of hardy trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants.
The Columbines are amongst the most familiar of herbaceous plants. Leaves alternate and ternately divided. Flowers very showy, solitary or panicled, blue, white, yellow, scarlet, or yellow, or some combination of these colours. Sepals 5, peta-loid, deciduous. Petals normally 5, concave, produced down-wards into a spur between the sepals. Carpels 5, sessile, free. Temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. Name from the Latin aquila, an eagle, from the form of the petals.
1. A. vulgaris (fig. 13). Common Columbine. - The only native species, and as such with blue or, rarely, white flowers; though under cultivation it has produced an endless number of varieties, many of them very handsome and brilliantly coloured, including almost every describable tint. There are also double-flowered varieties in which the spurs of the petals are inserted one in the others in a most remarkable manner. It grows from 2 to 4 feet high. The spurs are hooked, and the follicles hairy.
2. A. alpina. - A pretty little plant, about a foot high, with finely cut leaves and large white or blue with a white centre flowers. It is a native of Switzerland, blooming in May.
3. A. glandulosa. - A showy species, of which there are several varieties in cultivation. The flowers are very large, blue and white, the petals shortly spurred. A native of Siberia.
4. A. jucunda. - One of the handsomest of the genus, having unusually large flowers, whose calyx is bright blue and the corolla blue and white; spurs short, curved. Also from Siberia.
5. A, Canadensis. - A tall, graceful, variable species, with loose panicles of bright red and internally orange-coloured drooping flowers. The flowers appear in June, and are narrower than in most species, and the spurs short and straight. North America.
Fig. 13. Aquilegia vulgaris. (1/3 nat. size.)
6. A. Skinneri. - A dwarf-growing species, similar to the last in the colouring of its flowers, but the spurs are very long in proportion, and the sepals green as well as the upper part of the petals. A native of Guatemala, flowering in Spring.
7. A. arctica, syn. A. formosa. - Allied to the last, but with larger, brighter coloured flowers. Sepals and spurs scarlet, limb of the petals yellow. A native of western North America.