Variegated Columbine

Variegated 'Woodside Blue' Columbine


"The columbine,
With its cap and bells, for folly!"

-William Young,
1885

   

Here's a clump of Aquilegia vulgaris vervaeneana 'Woodside Variegata,' aka "Woodside Strain"; or, because they come in many flower colors, this one can be specified as 'Woodside Blue.' One might also obtain 'Woodside Pink,' 'Woodside Red,' & 'Woodside White' with the same variegated leaves.

Its first year in the ground, it got very big & almost bushy with its gorgeous variegated leaves of lime-green with yellow streaking. It grew to about one foot of height & more than a foot round, a densely leafed clump that looked very beautiful as a fill-in plant tucked between Azalea 'Youth' & Azalea 'Girard Crimson.'

The gorgeous leaves lasted until November before they started to look a mite worn, by which time every other clumbine in our gardens had already died back. Others report that the foliage begins to fade by mid-summer. Apparently our keeping the soil uniformly moist through summer, combined with its not using any energy to produce flowers, resulted in protracted presence of the leaves.

For all that glory of its first-year foliage, it didn't produce even one bloom, expending all its energy on roots & leaves. Fortunately it is beautiful even without flowers, & even more happily, it made up for its one by flowering wonderfully in year two. The flowers are two-toned palest blue, short-spurred & chubby, & nodding. Bloom time is May through July, but there can be later rebloom if flowers are periodically harvested for bouquets or with deadheading before they go to seed.

The "Vervaeneana" cluster of marbled cultivars were first recorded for leaftype in 1914 field trials of the Royal Horticultural Society. Strains were so unstable they remained for decades extremely rare offerings, until the more predictable Woodside series was developed by Mervyn Feesey of North Devon in the 1980s, & named after his home, which is called Woodside. Feesey also developed the 'Woodside Gold' strain with bright yellow-green leaves, from which series we have 'Woodside Gold' rose-pink. There are also newer "doubles" in the Woodside series, introduced by the firm of Thompson & Morgan in 1995.

A large clump of variegated Woodside Blue is rarely any taller than twenty inches, often shorter, but easily achieves a two foot width. The compact shrub-like appearance of so perfectly rounded a dome of meadow-rue-like leaves, it would be striking even without the extra showiness of the leaves' variegation.

Continue to:
Columbine 'Roman Bronze'

   



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