Aquilegia vulgaris 'Magpie' syn. 'William Guiness'
One hundred years ago the Scottish architect, designer and painter Charles Rennie Macintosh was inspired by the stylized form of this flower and others like it, as they provided the principal source for the structure and detail of his designs. Writing in 1895 for Architecture he said 'If we trace the artistic form of things made by man to their origin, we find a direct inspiration from if not a direct imitation of nature'.
Compared to the more commonly grown, larger flowered and vibrant Mckana hybrid Aquilegias, 'Magpie' has both a more subdued colour as well as the distinctive angular 'design'. This one, like other species and cultivars does better in a cooler climate and is probably better treated as an annual in a warm one. In my experience the foliage becomes prone to mildew over the summer and then the plant fails to thrive the following season. If seed is planted in late summer, the resulting seedlings will flower by the spring. Seed is held in angular upright capsules and is easy to collect and will come true to type as long as no other variety has been grown in the vicinity. Unusual as well is the fact that 'Magpie' carries the colour theme to the flower stems and leaves as some appear to be spotted with that dark inky purple which stands out against the pale blue-grey leaves and stems.