Cool Columbines (Aquilegia)

As I look out upon a snowy landscape today (and likely tomorrow too!), I can’t help but think that in a couple short weeks, we should have an explosion of color out in the gardens.  This early color includes columbines (Aquilegia sp.) which have long been a favorite flower of mine.  With a wide distribution worldwide (60-70 species), columbines continue to delight with their spurred flower petals, range of colors and value for early color in the garden.  The Latin name is derived from the word for eagle as the flowers look like “eagle claws”.  There are lots of hybrids out there, compact forms, double forms, etc.   The majority are fairly short-lived out in the garden although those that have viable seed will move around the gardens a bit as well.   If the foliage starts looking bad in summer, we cut the plants to the ground and get some clean growth to finish the season or they simply stay dormant until next spring.  We stopped labeling most of ours at the gardens due to their nomadic movements around the gardens.  My first couple of photos feature the native wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) which naturalizes quite well in the garden.  Reaching heights of 24-36″, this species will thrive in full sun to quite a bit of shade.  Tolerating rabbit and deer issues as well as drought and poor soils, columbines like most soils except those that are very heavy and/or poorly drained.  A wide range of pollinators, including hummingbirds, enjoy visiting columbines in spring. The wild columbine varieties (more compact) of ‘Pink Lanterns’ and ‘Corbett’ are also featured here as well.  The standard Aquilegia canadensis featuring the orange/yellow look seen here, also has a compact form (12″  height) called ‘Little Lanterns’.   The other images in this blog are meant simply as eye candy and I’m not sure on all the species and varieties but enjoy!

With 2″ or so of wet snow yesterday and overnight, the winter landscape didn’t inspire anyone to even enter the gardens.  After some snow removal early, the crew mostly had indoor work to attend to.  Our grounds staff of Big John, Larry O., Larry H., Janice and I all had a wide range of projects to work on today.  John ran lots of errands while Larry H. continue processing the tail end of some Holiday Light Show (HLS) elements.  Larry O. worked on snow removal and tool sharpening while Janice continues with her research and data entry projects along with aggressive preparations for looming events (Spring Plant Sale).  Today we also saw Kathy P., Marv B., Jenny, Alan, Terry, Hal, Dr. Gredler, Dr. Yahr, Dave, Jim, Vern, Maury, Firefighter Cathy, Zorro and many others.

Aquilegia canadensis (above and seven below)

Aquilegia canadensis ‘Pink Lanterns’ (above and two below)

Aquilegia canadensis ‘Corbett’ (above)

Aquilegia chrysantha ‘Denver Gold’ (above)

Aquilegia vulgaris ‘William Guiness’ (above) and ‘William Guiness Double’ (below)