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Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata 'Nora Barlow' (Barlow Series)

Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata 'Nora Barlow' (Barlow Series)



About this cultivar:

Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata 'Nora Barlow' (Barlow Series) is a short-lived Aquilegia cultivar with nodding, spurless, double flowers, composed of many narrow, dull deep pink and pale green petals.

The species 'vulgaris' means common which I find funny since you can buy it everywhere (even waitrose.... Not sure the botanist named it vulgaris for that reason tho..... And the stellata means 'star like'.

Despite it ubiquity, it is actually a pretty good, fun plant!

Val Bourne writes: "Although named and promoted in the 1960s by Alan Bloom, it was a 17th-century plant recorded by Parkinson. It is willowy with starry flowers and it must be used in drifts to have any impact.

Nora was the granddaughter and biographer of Charles Darwin. She gardened at The Orchard and bequeathed her land to New Hall in Cambridge. Nora, who died in 1989, carried out genetic experiments with aquilegias and collected many for this purpose. But her experiments were ruined after she showed her six children how to drink the nectar from the spurs. She lived to a great age, finally dying at 104. There are now other forms including ‘Black Barlow’."

I'm a Parkinson so I've put in a print from my (presumed) ancestors 1629 best-seller 'Paradisi in Sole, Paradisus Terrestris'. See if you spot the Aquilegia stellata! 

  • Position: Full sun, partial shade
  • Soil: Almost any soil - grows well in Ballyrobert!
  • Flowers: April, May, June
  • Other features: -
  • Hardiness: H7 - Hardy in the severest European continental climates (< -20°C), Fully hardy - grows well in Ballyrobert!
  • Habit: Clump forming, bushy
  • Foliage: Deciduous
  • Height: 60 - 90 cm (2 - 3 ft)
  • Spread: 60 - 90 cm (2 - 3 ft)
  • Time to full growth: 2 to 5 years
  • Plant type: Herbaceous Perennial
  • Colour: Pink, green, white
  • Goes well with: Dark leaved Actea, golden grasses (Deschampsia or Stipa), Trollius and Geranium.

About this genus:

Aquilegia is a herbaceous perennial that contains about 70 species native to the temperate countries of the northern hemisphere. It is grown for its beautiful bonnet shaped flowers that seemingly come in every colour imaginable. The genus Aquilegia get its name from aquila (eagle in Latin) and the columbus (dove in Latin). I cannot think why. No doubt the botanist naming this plant must have also been working closely with some hallucinogenic genus when naming this plant.

At Ballyrobert we have a love/hate relationship with Aquilegia because they seed everywhere! An established Aquilegia clump will spread rampantly via seeds, which will give you years of pleasure or pain (depending on your approach to weeding). As a compromise we have tried to find varieties that will seed as true-to-form as possible – so we don't get as many uninvited colours into the garden (or nursery for that matter!). The copious amounts of seed produced by Aquilegia attract many small birds and other forms of wildlife. I am convinced I have seen squirrels eat Aquilegia seeds by picking them out of the flowers.

Aquilegia is usually evergreen and best suited to wild or cottage-style gardens. Good pairing partners include dark leaved Actea, golden grasses (Deschampsia or Stipa), Trollius and Geranium.

We find that regardless of soil, sun, shade, temperature Aquilegia will happily grow almost anywhere (and everywhere) that isn't a pond – invite into you garden with caution!