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The Independent Online
A new seed list has just arrived from John Drake, who holds the national collection of aquilegias at Harwicke House at Fen Ditton in Cambridgeshire. There are about 120 different varieties, though not all of them are on this most recent list.

I grew seven different types from Mr Drake's seed in September 1994 and they flowered this year. Stunners all. I particularly recommend 'Bellhaven Blue' which is a variety of the common columbine, Aquilegia vulgaris, with violet blue spurless flowers. The German variety 'Carl Ziepke' was gorgeous, too. This is a tall form of the alpine species, A. alpina and it has rich, deep-blue flowers.

The aquilegia seed is best sown as soon as possible after it is collected. This will mean getting your act together during late August or September. Sprinkle the seed as thinly as possible along the rows. Sometime the following year, when the little plants are large enough to handle without fear of damaging them, transplant them into fresh ground to grow on. While they are doing that, you can decide on where their final quarters are going to be.

This autumn, I am going to try sowing A. longissima, which looked quite magnificent on Carol Klein's stand at the Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year. It has spectacular, long yellow spurs. Carol Klein had it growing next to the stripey, sword-leaved sisyrinchium called 'Aunt May' and the sedum 'Morchen'.

Another combination would be to grow Miss Jekyll's aquilegia 'Munstead White' and partner it with inky black 'Molly Sanderson' violas and the deep-violet blue flowers of Geranium sylvaticum 'Mayflower'.

The aquilegia seeds cost pounds 1.25 for a packet and you can get the seed list by sending a stamped, addressed envelope to John Drake, Hardwicke House, Fen Ditton, Cambridgeshire CB5 8TF.

AP

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