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Aquilegia caerulea – Columbine ‘Mrs. Scott Elliot’

Mrs. Scott Elliot columbine is a hybrid of Aquilegia caerulea, Rocky Mountain columbine. You tend to see Mrs. Scott Elliot columbine offered from various seed companies in colors ranging from yellow to rose to pale purple. This great variation of flower colors is typical of Aquilegia caerulea.

Aquilegia caerulea, Rocky Mountain columbine, is native to North America and the state flower of Colorado. The origin of the Mrs. Scott Elliot hybrid mix is presumably named after the wife of a Scottish botanist from the early 20th century. This is somewhat mysterious to me.

columbine mrs. scott elliott
Mrs. Scott Elliott Columbine

Mrs. Scott Elliot columbine comes in a range of colors.

I like to know what color my columbines are going to be every year, so I would probably favor American columbine in my own plantings. Nonetheless, Rocky Mountain columbine has gorgeous flowers. If it self-seeds the flowers will be an unexpected array of colors each year.

As one might expect from a plant adapted to growing at elevations above 6000 feet, it is winter hardy to USDA zone 3 (-30 degrees F°). It can be grown in warmer climates as columbine tends to be adaptable.

The genus name Aquilegia is derived from Latin for ‘eagle’ and refers to the prominent spurs reminiscent of talons. The Scottish botanist I referred to at the beginning of this article was named George F. Scott Elliot and he offered a different view of the origin of the genus name. In his marvelously titled book The Romance Of Plant Life: Interesting Descriptions Of The Strange And Curious In The Plant World (1907), Elliot refers to the origin of the spurs as resembling a circle of doves seated on a well.

Growing Columbine

All of the columbines are easy to grow. They bloom early in the season and wither away as summer advances. This is natural and will likely be more noticeable with Rocky Mountain columbine. Columbine is a fine plant to pair with summer-flowering perennials that arrive as the columbine fades.

Once the foliage withers in summer, you will do no harm in cutting it back to the ground.

Columbine grows and looks best when planted in areas with afternoon shade. Morning and early afternoon sun are perfect. It grows fine in average garden soil and supplemental watering is normally not needed. Even when I set out new plants I never notice them wilting whereas most perennials bear close watching when newly planted.

If you remove spent flowers, you will get further flowering as the season progresses. I do not deadhead in this manner as I prefer the flowers to go to seed so that there may be new columbine the following year.

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