Information About Wildflowers, Aquilegia and Digitalis.

Wildflower meadowWildflowers

Even the smallest garden has room for a few wildflowers, perhaps a pot on the patio with a few Primroses and Violets in the Spring followed by a display of poppy and cornflower in the Summer. Planted in the right place wildflowers look fantastic and can be left to get on with it. For example I have Bluebells and Primroses growing in the dappled shade of a deciduous hedgerow, Cowslips in the orchard and Yellow Flag Iris, Ragged Robin and Purple Loosestrife next to my ponds. When planting wildflowers as with most other plants the area should be free of invasive weeds such as nettles, docks, couch grass, etc. cornfield annuals should be planted into bare ground. Other plants can be planted into short grass, for instance Primroses or Cowslips in orchards.

If planting into grass to give the plant a good start we recommend that a 200mmx 200mm area of turf is removed together with the top 200mm of soil. Turn the whole lot over and replace turf side down in the hole. Plant into the upturned turf and keep watered and free of weeds until established.

Some wildflowers grow best in bare soil  and do not compete well with grass. These are mostly cornfield annuals such as Poppy, Cornflower, Corn Cockle and Corn Marigold. These plants compete better with grasses etc in poor soil without added organic matter or fertilizer.


Aquilegia is a member of the Ranunculas family and all parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested.

Aquilegia is a Northern hemisphere perennial that grows in woods, meadows and alpine areas. Common names are Columbine and Granny's Bonnet, Columbine deriving from the Latin name for dove. The inverted flower is said to resemble five doves clustered together. Aquilegia prefer a bit of shade but will grow in full sun providing the soil is moist. Alpine species as a rule have to be treated differently. Some only reach 2ins high and would soon be swamped in an ordinary border. A scree bed, rockery or container is best for Alpines. Aquilegias are very hardy with the European native Aquilegia vulgaris withstanding temperatures down to -35c. Aquilegia sibirica and Aquilegia viridiflora both withstand temperatures down to a bone chilling -40c. Aquilegia are sometimes attacked by sawfly, look out for the grubs that resemble green caterpillars, they can be easily picked off. Aphids may also attack the plant but seldom cause lasting damage. The good news is that Aquilegia is not on the menue when it comes to slugs and snails. 

There are a huge range of colours available, whites, pinks, reds, yellows, blues, purples and every colour in between. Flower form also varies considerably. Singles, doubles, pleated, pompoms, spurless, short spurred and long spurred. Height can be anything from 2ins for some Alpine species to over 36ins. Aquilegia are known for being very promiscuous when it comes to cross pollinating. Not only do they cross with any other Aquilegia in the neighbourhood but they also have recessive genes. So even a self pollinated plant may have offspring with slightly different characteristics. Aquilegias look good in traditional cottage gardens, herbaceous borders, rockeries and they make excellent cut flowers. 

We grow a large range of Aquilegia, some quite rare as well as many of the popular series. The 'Barlow Series' have double spurless flowers. Generally about 3ft high with upright stems. We have Rose, Black, Bordeaux, Blue, White and Nora Barlow. The 'Winky Series' developed in Holland has upwards facing flowers (they look like they are winking at you!) at a height of between 12ins-18ins. they are mildew resistant. We have White, Sky Blue and Winky Rose-Rose. The Clementine series have upward facing spurless double flowers that resemble Clematis at a height of 14ins-16ins. We have Salmon/Rose, White and Clementine Blue. For the 2015 season we will be growing several alpine species including Aquilegia sibirica, A. pyrenaica, A.flabellata, A. bertolonii and A buergeriana 'Calemero'.


Digitalis is toxic with all parts of the plant being poisonous, care must be taken when handling, it is advisable to wear gloves. Digitalis is native to Europe, N.W Africa, parts of Asia and Australasia. Often thought of as a tall biennial, but there are many perennials. Heights of different species can be from 18ins to over 6ft. There are a good range of colours, from white to pink, yellows, rusty orange, reds and chocolate brown. Some of my favourites are Digitalis parviflora, from Iberia, lovely foliage and chocolate brown flowers, Digitalis lutea, a perennial, grows to about 2ft with a delicate yellow flower and Digitalis grandiflora the large yellow foxglove another perennial up to 3ft. Digitalis prefer shade or dappled sunshine and do best in acidic soil. Generally pest free, usually avoided by all but the most desperate slug or snail.


Aster novae-angliae, New England Aster. These plants usually grow to 90-180cm and are resistant to mildew. Best grown in a sunny open spot in a moist soil but not too wet. Light soils are fine providing a mulch is applied.

Aster novi-belgii, New York Aster, the traditional Michaelmas Daisy with a large number of cultivars. Ranging in size from 10cm to 180cm a sunny open spot is preferred. Flowering from early September (early flowering type) until late October (late flowering type).

All quoted plant sizes are approximate. There are many factors that govern the size of a plant, type of soil, sun or shade, exposed or sheltered spot etc.




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