The Columbine is at home in the cottage garden and the herbaceous border. It is a dainty plant, bearing grey-green ferny leaves and attractively coloured flowers early in the season. Unfortunately Columbines are not long-lived, but they are very easily raised by sowing seed in the spring. For best results place a mulch around the stems in late spring and deadhead the spent blooms. Water copiously during periods of drought and spray with a systemic insecticide if greenfly are a nuisance. Cut down the stems once flowering is over.

VARIETIES: The old-fashioned Columbine in cottage gardens is A. vulgaris, a 2-3 ft plant bearing short-spurred flowers in blue or white during May and June. It is much better to grow A. hybrida these days – the flowers are much more colourful and the spurs are longer. You can buy named varieties such as’Crimson Star’(2 ft. red with white centres) and ‘Snow Queen’ (1.5 ft. pure white) but the best choice is undoubtedly a selection of ‘McKana Hybrids’ (2-3 ft. mixed colours). Plant 1 ft apart.

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained garden soil will do – thrives best in partial shade.

PROPAGATION: Sow seeds outdoors in April or divide clumps in autumn or spring.

A. ‘McKana Hybrids’

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