This is an intriguing genus of about 70 species and a number of cultivars. It is intriguing because of the captivating nature of the flowers. They look like ballet dancers with their arms held gracefully above their heads.
They are upright plants varying in height from no more than ground level in some alpine species up to 1m (3ft) or more. The flowers are held well above the attractive foliage. In some species the flowers hang, in others they are held at varying angles and give a more airy impression.
The old-fashioned grannies bonnets (Aquilegia vulgaris) were based on purple or violet blue of the wild plants, but gradually with cross-breeding other colours have been introduced.
The bedding varieties have bigger flowers and range in colour from white and pale yellow to red and purple. The species usually have much smaller flowers and again the range of colours is extensive, A. viridiflora, for example, having brown flowers.
Many of the main garden varieties derive from woodland species and will grow in light shade as well as a more sunny position. They can all be easily grown from seed, preferably sown soon after harvesting.