FWG Plant Sale 2012 Top Ten: #9 – Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

We’re profiling ten plants available at this year’s Native Plant Sale which may be less well-known – but still very lovable! Why not consider adding one of these to your garden?

Flowers: Red with yellow

Height: 12-15” (30-60 cm)

Width: 5-10″ (12-24 cm)

Light: Part shade to shade

The biggest issue facing most shade gardeners is how to have more in that garden than the ubiquitous green of hostas, ferns and other leafy plants. Though shade gardeners are fortunate to have so much texture of foliage to work with, everyone loves a spot of brightness! Thus, Wild Columbine comes to the rescue!

While less showy than the non-native ornamental garden versions, our own eastern red columbine tops dreamy, rounded leaves with a nodding red-orange flower complete with yellow centre. We find that our columbines seem to vary in their intensity of red – the more sun they get, the brighter the hue. In moderate to heavy shade, they are almost a salmon-pink.

Columbines do need some light, so don’t expect them to do amazingly well in the middle of a pocket of permanent heavy shade. Very versatile in nature, columbines do well in full sun although their foliage always seems most attractive and dense where shade can be found.

The aesthetically effective way to incorporate columbines in your garden is as a clumped mass. One plant alone can seem rather delicate, but three or more results in a wonderful mounded form where multiple flowers are suspended above layers of rounded leaves.

Columbines self-seed, so you’ll likely get more volunteers from your plant. They do not go out of control, and are easy to move or pull. The first year planted, columbines will look a bit sparse. It is in their second year that they burst out in a more robust form.

Blooming from mid-spring to early summer, long-tongued pollinators delight in flitting from flower to flower. Columbines do well under any native deciduous tree, and as part of a woodland planting. Come visit them in the Backyard Garden, where they feature in our Woodland Walk and the full-sun Rockery beds.

This year we have first year and second year columbines for sale. The second year columbines successfully overwintered and are hardier than the ones newly grown from seed as they have larger root masses.

Read about our other top ten:

#10 – Obedient Plant

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