Our garden is taken over every May by delightful invaders ... granny's bonnets, also known as aquilegias or columbines. They self-seed everywhere, given the chance, and have spread into all corners of the garden. I don't mind, and am always very happy to see them as they are a very pretty perennial and come in a gorgeous selection of colours.
They are violet
white with pink edges
and purple with green-tipped petals.
The name aquilegia comes from the Latin word 'aquila' which means 'eagle' and this is because their flowers were thought to look like an eagle's claw. I like the name granny's bonnets because they do look like pretty little hats nodding on their long slender stems. However, another name, columbine, comes from the Latin 'columba' which means 'dove'. This is because the flower is said to resemble a group of five doves. If you look closely at one segment of the flower you can see the little dove. The spur above the petal looks like a curved neck and head. Look ...
Here are some granny's bonnets which I saw when visiting another garden. These are pale green veined with lilac and are quite frilly.
These are a perfect double rosette shape.
And these are pure white with very long spurs.
When the flowers are over the seed-heads are beautiful too. They look like graceful fluted goblets, and pop open when the seeds are ripe.
Nurseries sell striking bi-coloured versions which are gorgeous too, but I like my 'common' ones the best. When they cross-pollinate you never know what colour you'll get...
...or where they'll pop up next. These soft pink ones thoughtfully positioned themselves in front of a deep green fern.
Our garden would be so much the worse without our lovely granny's bonnets. I allow them all to stay, rarely thinning them out, and always look forward to their flowering. I couldn't imagine May without them!