So we all agree that wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), also called red columbine, is the most beautiful perennial flower for shade, right? Exactly.
A friend of mine likes to say that columbine are like candy, you can never have enough. Certainly A. canadensis, native to North America east of the Rockies, is a sweet wildflower. The dangling red and yellow blooms put me in mind of colorful chandeliers.
In a moist, partly shady spot wild columbine will grow to substantial plants, in my garden about two feet high and three feet wide. The blue-green foliage is very attractive, and makes a nice groundcover after spring bloom is done if the soil is sufficiently moist.
A. canadensis is much less common in garden centers than the exotic species and cultivars. That is unfortunate because in addition to being native, A. canadensis is much more resistant to leaf miner, an insect pest that disfigures many columbines.
Columbines are a bit unpredictable, which is part of their charm. Individual plants may not be long lived, but they will self-sow. Once you have columbines, your are likely to continue to have them into the foreseeable future. Even so, seedlings are easy to pull out or transplant.
They do tend to pop up in some inconvenient spots. For example, there is one growing between pavers on the path into the back garden. Eventually it will have to come out or be run over by the wheelbarrow. For now, however, I do not have the heart to remove it.
Columbine are supposed to be attractive to hummingbirds, but I have never seen hummers feed on this flower in my own garden. The bees do like them.
One problem that occurs with columbine here is that they tend to bloom at the same time that cottonwood trees are dropping their fluff. The fluff gets stuck in and on the flower and at least partially ruins their appearance. This year it has not happened, I’m happy to say, perhaps because the unusual weather has thrown off the cottonwood/columbine synchronicity.
Do you grow columbine in your garden?