Aquilegia flabellata ‘Ministar’ is an outstanding dwarf variety of columbine from Japan, where it is also known as the Fan columbine after the rounded, curved shape of the leaves
This delightful dwarf cultivar blooms a little earlier than most columbines, opening its first flowers in April and continuing on for several weeks.
Growing to around 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) tall, the blooms are almost disproportionately large, with bright blue sepals with a white corolla each flower is topped with prominent horns.
The flowers are borne above attractive fan-shaped foliage, the blue-green leaves are thicker and wider than other columbines.
Very hardy and long lived, it is one of the best selections for rock gardens, troughs and well-drained edges at walls or paths. Several plants clustered in a group would be an eye-catching display at the front of a border or to the side of steps.
Aquilegia flabellata 'Mini-Star' was awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) in 1993.
Sowing: Sow February to June or September to October.
Seeds can either be sown directly where they are to flower or can be sown into pots and grown on, before transplanting. Avoid the hottest and coldest parts of the year and sow in early spring to early summer or sow in autumn.
Find a cooler part of the garden that enjoys dappled shade. If you have plenty of seed start by sprinkling seeds straight onto the ground in late-summer. Rake so that the seeds are covered with a small amount of soil. The seeds will germinate by the following spring.
Aquilegias will self-sow into choice plants, so only sprinkle the seeds where it will not matter.
Sow seed on the surface of lightly firmed, seed compost in pots or trays. Cover seed with a light sprinkling of vermiculite. Stand the pot in water until the soil is moist and drain. Either use a plastic lid or seal container inside a polythene bag to keep the moisture in. Keep at 15 to 20°C (59 to 68°F).
After sowing, do not exclude light as this helps germination. Keep the surface of the compost moist but not waterlogged. Always stand the pots in water: never water on the top of seeds.
Expect germination within 2 to 3 weeks. Overwinter September sowings in a cold frame and plant out the following spring. When large enough to handle, transplant seedlings into 7.5cm (3in) pots or trays. Gradually acclimatise to outdoor conditions for 10 to 15 days before planting out after all risk of frost, 30cm (12in) apart.
Feeding is unnecessary unless the soil is exceptionally poor. An aquilegia should not need staking, but an overfed plant will flop. Their rounded foliage is attractive, even in winter, but it looks much more impressive when given a late-autumn haircut. Cut the leaves right back and fresh foliage will appear.
When the flowers are finished, around the end of June, cut the stalks off and let the leaves do their stuff without the distraction of drying spikes of stem.
Lift and divide large clumps in early spring and apply a generous 5 to 7cm (2 to 3in) mulch of well-rotted manure or garden compost around the plant. Divided specimens may take some time to establish since they don’t like having their roots disturbed. Contact with the sap may cause skin irritation.
Columbines tend to cross-pollinate, hybridise, and self seed freely, creating new strains and colours. The formation of seeds will shorten the productive lifespan of the plant, so it is best to remove the spent flowers promptly. Columbines tend to lose vitality after 4 to 5 years and are best replaced at that time.
Beds and borders, Cottage/Informal, Flower Arranging, Gravel, Low Maintenance, Rockeries, Woodland Gardens.
Columbines in the wild are identified by species characteristics and often are endemic to a specific geographic area. There are at least seventy species of Aquilegia, including Britain’s native Aquilegia vulgaris. Aquilegia vulgaris has been grown in gardens since the 13th century, when it first appears in illuminated manuscripts.
The species flabellata is unique, derived from Japan where it is known as the Japanese fan columbine.
In Japan, Aquilegia flabellata and its numerous hybrids have long been cultivated, although the species is unknown in the wild. Hybrids like 'Ministar' are consistently popular among alpine enthusiasts. Its small, stocky plants are loaded with flowers. This excellent strain has been offered for many years as Aquilegia flabellata ‘Blue Angel’.
The genus name Aquilegia comes from the Latin word aquil meaning eagle, in reference to the flower’s five spurs at the back of the flower that resemble an eagle’s talon.
The species name flabellata is taken from the Latin flabellum for "a small fan".
The common name, columbine comes from the Latin columbinus, meaning 'dove-like'. If you up-end an aquilegia to reveal the spurs, they resemble birds feeding and 'Doves round a Dish', another common name, reflects this perfectly. The flower was often depicted in medieval paintings to represent the dove of peace.
The family name Ranunculus is a diminutive form of the Latin rana meaning 'little frog'; because many of its members grow in moist places.
- Additional Information
Packet Size 16 Seeds Family Ranunculaceae Genus Aquilegia Species flabetta Synonym Aquilegia japonica, Aquilegia flabellata ‘Blue Angel’. Common Name Aquilegia akitensis, Fan Columbine Other Common Names Dwarf Columbine, Granny's Bonnet Other Language Names In Japan it is commonly known as the Wodamakinari Hardiness Hardy Perennial Flowers May to July Height 15 to 20cm (6 to 8in) Spread 25cm (10in) Position Full Sun or Partial Shade. Time to Sow February to June or September to October. Germination 4 to 12 weeks