Aquilegia vulgaris is known most commonly as Columbine, but it is also referred to as European Crowfoot, Granny's Nightcap and Granny's Bonnet.
It is an herbaceous, clump-forming perennial from the Ranunculaceae family (buttercups and Crowfoots), and it thrives in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 8 (hardy throughout most of Europe).
A showy, spring-bloomer, Aquilegia vulgaris is noted for its narrow, 18-inch to 3 feet (45 to 90 cm) long leafy stems, and its drooping, blue-violet, single or double blossoms.
Most varieties have spurs, which are long, thin strips that stream out from the rear of each blossom.
Ancolie commune (Aquilegia vulgaris) photograph by pascal.
Columbine plants have a delicate, fairy garden quality that make them a welcome addition to woodland gardens, rock and cottage gardens, as well as being ideal for borders.
Aquilegia vulgaris also make nice cut flowers, and there are several attractive cultivars, including the deep purple Leprechaun Gold, the reddish-flowered Little Lanterns, and Nana Alba; the latter an all-white flower with light green tints.
Columbine also attracts hummingbirds and butterflies in the right areas.
Aquilegia vulgaris prefers full sun to partial shade and rich, moist, but well-drained soils.
Propagation is easily accomplished by scattering seeds directly into the garden in the spring, when danger of frost has passed.
Plants tend to die off after two to three years. However, as they are prolific self-seeders, given time, they will naturalize in the garden.
There are several varieties of columbine, and if planted near one another, it is not uncommon for cross-pollination to occur.
Cutting back stems will encourage new growth but should not be done until spent flowers have formed and released seed capsules to start new seedlings (unless you are limiting their spread, in which case deadhead before seed set).