The power of promiscuity

I have a love-hate relationship with Columbines. Well, hate is an awfully strong word… I guess it’s more of a love/slight annoyance kind of relationship. The Aquilegia – or Columbine – is one of those plants, that once you have invited it into your garden, it will never, ever leave. It will self-seed profusely, and show up where you least expect it (or want it), and to some extent, you end up relinquishing all control. But that is not the greatest reason for my annoyance. The truth is that their chosen spot is often enough a lucky accident, and I am quick to forgive it. No, it is my reluctance in pulling the abundant seedlings out that is annoying. You see, seeing the accidental outcome has become somewhat addictive for me. You just never know what you’re going to get – or where it is going to show up, for that matter. Pulling them out prematurely would be a little like tossing out a lottery ticket before the winning numbers have been announced. It’s a gamble!

Back in the day when certain subjects were too taboo to air publicly,  flowers and their arrangements served as a coded language with which to express thoughts and feelings of  a more sensitive nature. If, in Victorian England, you were the recipient of a Columbine – Heaven forbid! – it implied that you had a reputation for promiscuity.

I can totally see why. As I’ve watched the three Columbines I voluntarily granted entry mingle over the years, some pretty awesome results have ensued from their sexual interactions with one another. As with us humans, crossbreeding can yield some pretty striking results. My kids are half-Swedish, and half-Filipino. They are stunningly beautiful! Okay, fine – I am probably somewhat biased in this assessment, but you can see for yourself what I mean. At the end of last year, National Geographic came out with an issue in which they took a look at the New Face of America. In it, they examined how the complexity of race, identity, and appearance is far greater than what will fit into a mere checked box on an official form from the US Census Bureau. In customary NG fashion, stunning photos make up a great part of the story. The article is littered with mesmerizing portraits of some uniquely beautiful humans. It may sound silly, but the blossoms resulting from the vivacious, procreational romps of my three Columbines fill me with the same awe as the faces in that article. When you approach the zest of life without the self-imposed limitations of names. labels and categories, the most beautiful things allow themselves to happen!

So, the original three I granted access to my front garden were:

... the fuzzy, black dahlia-like blossoms of Black Barlow,

… the fuzzy, black dahlia-like blossoms of Black Barlow,

... a blue variety with the more traditional bloom form,

… a blue variety with the more traditional bloom form,

... and a snowy white variety with the same traditional flower form.

… and a snowy white variety with the same traditional flower form.

Before long, the loveliest little hybrids began appearing throughout the garden:

The same form, but with a dark purplish blush that echoes the lineage of the Black Barlow.

The same form, but with a dark red blush that echoes the lineage of the Black Barlow.

I particularly loved where this one decided to plant itself - it took hold within the variegated dogwood (Cornus 'Elegantissima') in glorious visual proximity of the nearby Bloodgood maple. Really, I couldn't have done this better if I'd tried!

I particularly loved where this one decided to plant itself – it took hold within the variegated dogwood (Cornus ‘Elegantissima’) in glorious visual proximity of the nearby Bloodgood maple. Really, I couldn’t have done this better if I’d tried!

Another marvel that suddenly occurred, is the masterful blend of Black Barlow with the blue one. Here the form of the flower has taken on a little of both - the fuzzy, free-wheeling shape of the Black Barlow, while still retaining some of the "lantern" elegance of traditional Columbines.  And, the rich, dark purple color is to die for. So cool!

Another marvel that suddenly occurred, is the masterful blend of Black Barlow with the blue one. Here the form of the flower has taken on a little of both – the fuzzy, free-wheeling shape of the Black Barlow, while still retaining some of the “lantern” elegance of traditional Columbines. And, the rich, dark purple color is to die for. So cool! Somehow, this one looks awfully Victorian to me. 

I’m not sure what other surprises my seedy little wildcards have in store for me, but I’ll happily wait and see. I’m sure they’ll come up with more interesting variations that will continue to blur the lines of convention and further the species in one way or another. Actually, that can be said for both Columbines and other creatures. Vive la diversité!

 

 

About annamadeit

I was born and raised in Sweden, By now, I have lived almost as long in the United States. The path I’ve taken has been long and varied, and has given me a philosophical approach to life. I may joke that I’m a sybarite, but the truth is, I find joy and luxury in life’s simple things as well. My outlook on life has roots in a culture rich in history and tradition, and I care a great deal about environmental stewardship. Aesthetically, while drawn to the visually clean, functional practicality and sustainable solutions that are the hallmarks of modern Scandinavia, I also have a deep appreciation for the raw, the weathered, and the worn - materials that tell a story. To me, contrast, counterpoint, and diversity are what makes life interesting and engaging. Color has always informed everything I do. I’m a functional tetrachromat, and a hopeless plantoholic. I was originally trained as an architect working mostly on interiors, but soon ventured outside - into garden design. It’s that contrast thing again… An interior adrift from its exterior, is like a yin without a yang. My firm conviction that everything is connected gets me in trouble time and time again. The world is a big place, and full of marvelous distractions, and offers plentiful opportunities for inquiry and exploration. I started writing to quell my constant queries, explore my discoveries, and nurture my curiosity. The Creative Flux was started in 2010, and became a catch-all for all kinds of intersecting interests. The start of Flutter & Hum at the end of 2013 marks my descent into plant nerd revelry. I occasionally contribute to other blogs, but those two are my main ones. For sure, topics are all over the map, but then again - so am I! Welcome to my blogs!
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4 Responses to The power of promiscuity

  1. Alison says:

    I try to take a very liberal approach to my Columbines too. I tend to let them seed all over. You’re right that you never know what you’ll get, and sometimes where they sow themselves is very fortuitous. Yours are beautiful!

    • annamadeit says:

      Thanks Alison! I read somewhere that you’re supposed to pinch off the seed heads to ensure better blooms next year, but so far I’ve left them on – for better, for worse. As far as I can tell, it hasn’t seemed to mar the performance much. Quite the opposite!

  2. Danielle says:

    Those black Dahlia’s are GORGEOUS!

    • annamadeit says:

      Oh – you’re right! They kind of look like Dahlias when there is no scale to put them in perspective… They are actually Columbines – the Black Barlow cultivar. My favorites!

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