January 29, 2020

Darwin’s Legacy

Aquilegia vulgaris 'Nora Barlow' - columbine

Janine Pineo Photo | Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Nora Barlow’ – columbine

One sometimes is surprised to find a much-loved plant has a fascinating history. Such is the case with Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Nora Barlow.’ Considered a “ancient type of rose columbine” with double sepals, ‘Nora Barlow’ was named after the granddaughter of Charles Darwin. She edited and published works by her grandfather that had been left unpublished or edited out of the original text. She studied plant genetics in the early 1900s at Cambridge, which was pioneering that research at the time, and published two plant genetics papers in the following decades. As for the columbine, it is an easy plant to grow. Give it fertile soil and either full sun or partial shade and it should thrive down to Zone 3. The one pictured was a volunteer in a pot of another plant. That plant faded away years ago, but the ‘Nora Barlow’ is back every year.