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December 7, 2010 > Pat Kite's Garden: Sow your Columbine

Pat Kite's Garden: Sow your Columbine

By Pat Kite

Columbine came to my garden quite by accident. On a museum tour bus, I sat next to a nice lady and nattered about travel, leaving my address for further information. She must have confused me with another Pat, because several weeks later I got a Holiday card and a packet full of Columbine seeds.

I tend to avoid really fragile appearing flowers, given my ability to destruct. However, also having an inability to waste, I casually sprinkled the teensy seeds in the vicinity of my fuchsia-laden walkway. Goodbye and Good luck was my thought. However, come spring, lo and behold, I had dancing delicate Columbines. They were white or blue, and lasted and lasted. Every time I thought they were a summer goner, another few peeked up.

Columbine is said to come from the Latin Columba or "dove," as the curved flower spurs resemble, according to texts, either a dove's head or a nest of doves. Other names for these upside-down bell-shaped flowers are doves in the ark, dove-plant, granny-bonnets, and fool's cap. And, once upon a time, it was said the Columbine flower resembled a royal crown. Because we have just survived another election saber-fight, I found a political story about Columbines and their crown shape.

It goes back to ancient Persia, where the forest's wild beasts were making quite a fuss over who should be king. The lion, tiger, bear, leopard, wolf, and hyena all considered themselves the perfect monarch. Finally the god of beasts got angry at their incessant squabbling. He told them all to go home, and the next morning he would appoint the true king of beasts. At dawn the lion, tiger, bear, leopard, wolf, and hyena returned to the anointing site. Each wore a crown on his head, presuming this appearance of kingly-ness a totally brilliant idea none of the others had the brains to consider, believing appearance alone would get them appointed. However, the lion was really furious that anybody else had this great idea. So he leaped upon each of his competitors and knocked their crowns off. When the god of beasts arrived, only the lion had a crown. So the god of beasts figured the lion had convinced the others of his royal-ness. Which is why, in this story, the lion became king of beasts. The knocked-off crowns remained where they fell, eventually turning into columbines.

Columbines also go by the official name Aquilegia, in case you are checking for further information. If you have a site with regular water and semi-shade, give them a try. With the New Year approaching, now is the time to strew seeds for the springing future.

A note: Garden groups and similar clubs often ask about speakers. Nancy Overton recently gave a delightful seminar at my garden club, where we had fun making greeting cards from pressed flowers. Check out her web site at www.nancyovertondesign.com.

Happy New Year!

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