Aquilegia alpina in the Casa Fontanalba Visitors’ Book

Clarence’s artistic endeavours flourished when he could combine his creativity and botanical knowledge with his design skills. Instead of having a standard book for signatures of the many visitors to the Casa Fontanalba (in 10 years he had over 250 visitors who made their way up the mountain road), he illustrated in advance each right-hand page with a flower and a matching border. Clarence had more than the objective appreciation and accurate copying ability of the botanical artist: he wanted to have fun with flowers. This image of Aquilegia alpina is from this Casa Fontanalba visitors’ book where the frame of the page takes colours and forms from the flower depicted (a montage made by Rémy Masséglia with Clarence’s signature added, for one of the postcards promoting the film about Clarence).

Aquilegia alpina, called the alpine columbine and breath of God, is a species of flowering plant in the genus Aquilegia, native to the Alps and northern Italy where it is typically found growing on carbonate bedrock. It is an herbaceous perennial, up to 80cm high, with blue-green leaves and nodding, bright blue or blue and white flowers in spring

It can be grown in temperate gardens; commonly known as Columbine or Granny’s Bonnet, it is a charming, old-fashioned stalwart of the cottage garden, producing clouds of bonnet-shaped flowers above lacy foliage from late spring into the summer. Thriving in sun or partial shade, these clump-forming herbaceous perennials are highly effective for adding a naturalistic appearance amongst shrubs and roses and particularly useful for filling the void between a spring bulb display and the first summer flowers.

Synonyms: Aquilegia montana

Family: Ranunculaceae

Genus: Aquilegia are clump-forming herbaceous perennials with long-stalked, ternately divided basal leaves and erect, leafy stems bearing bell-shaped flowers with spreading, coloured sepals and petals with spurs, on branched stems