The New Aquilegia Disease

Granny's Bonnet

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘Adelaide Addison’

I have 1000s of Aquilegia on this plot.  Two thirds are probably vulgaris strains. Ie the old Granny’s Bonnet type, some of which come remarkably true from seed if grown some way away from other forms, particularly ‘Adelaide Addison’ shown (although it sends up the odd fully blue one), ‘William Guinness’ deep plum with white as you might have guessed and the pom-pom types like ‘Ruby Port’ and ‘Nora Barlow’.

The remaining third are long spurred types.  Many are hybrids that have occured here from the species Aquilegia chrysantha which I have grown for many years, skinneri hybrids and crosses between those and vulgaris plus some long spurred Mckana type hybrids which flower much longer than straight forward vulgaris types and often with showier flowers.  However, it is this range that concerns me as I have noticed that the new Aquilegia disease has arrived here and is showing itself on some of these forms. The leaves of these forms are much finer and daintier than those of straight forward vulgaris forms and I wonder if they are more susceptible to the disease.  Little seems to be known about how and where it came from.  Most of the varieties here have been here for many years from when I had a nursery and I used to raise them from seed or collect seed from plants I had purchased some 20 years ago.  However, a few years ago, I bought a few plants of ‘Dove’ strain, a long spurred hybrid from a wholesale nursery and some of these have been affected.  I wonder if the disease came in from them or perhaps our mild wet winters have lead to it occurring naturally.

So what have I done about it?  Well worrying though it is I have not yet dug up and burned the plants as has been suggested.

However, I have cut the plants right back to ground level (cleaned my secateurs with methylated spirits) and plan to feed them first. If I see no positive results from this treatment, ie re-growth of healthy leaves, I will dig up and burn the affected plants.  I am also going to take measures to save seed from my best and most healthy forms even though they may not come true from seed as they are open pollinated, where they are growing away from other forms they possibly will give me a percentage of true forms.  By taking the seed and sowing it rather than letting it fall will allow me to introduce plants to different areas of the garden and flower field in the hope of re-establishing some forms a way away from where the disease has occurred (it has been spotted in two different places on this plot which extends to just under 2 acres).

Aquilegia disease

A hybrid cross between vulgaris and chrysantha type which is a good strain raised by me

Aquilegia seed is best sown fresh as soon as it turns black and I like to use a soil based seed compost and cover with vermiculite after sowing.

Let’s hope this disease is not here to stay, it may be weather induced.  A few years ago, Aquilegia saw-fly used to be quite a problem with me but I never seem to get that now but that is a pest rather than a disease and maybe the birds eat those.

I hope to make my next post a more positive one but I will keep you informed on how I get on with the cutting back and feeding.


Aquilegia ‘Dove’ strain has shown signs of the new disease







Jane Edmonds


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