months topic... Aquilegia or Columbines
Columbine's derive their botanical name aquilegia,
from the Latin word aquila, meaning "Eagle", which is
referring to the claw like spurs at the rear of the flower. Columbines are a
very hardy, easy to grow perennials. Columbines are a favorite of Hummingbirds and
Bees due to the high nectar content of the flower.
sizeable single or bi-colored nodding flowers in pastel shades of blues,
white, violets, reds, and yellows during early May and often into June if
the spent flowers are removed. Columbines may loose their vigor after 3
to 4 years and should be replaced if their health declines.
caerulea... "The Rocky Mountain Columbine" was adopted as the
Colorado state flower in 1899. The plant was first discovered by a mountain
climber named Edwin James in 1820 while he and his party were climbing Pikes
Peak. In 1925 the Colorado legislature enacted a law protecting the plant
prohibiting digging, picking or removing Columbines from all public lands.
the fun stuff... How to Buy and Grow Columbines
Buying Pre-started Columbines... or to
The answer depends on your patience and skill level. Columbines grown from
seed will take two seasons to flower. Pre-started plants may already have
flowers on them, or will flower soon.
Growing Columbines from Seed...
To start Columbine plants from seed purchase fresh packaged seed from your favorite garden
center. Seed collected from hybrid plants may not produce plants that hold
true to the parents.
Columbine seed needs to be chilled for 3 to
4 weeks before it will germinate. This can be done using one of three
- Place the entire seed package in the
refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks... then sow as usual.
- Sow your seeds in small containers or
flats of moist sterile soil. Columbine seed should be sown so the seed
is barley covered with soil. Cover the containers with plastic wrap and place in the
refrigerator for 3 to 4 weeks. If any seeds sprout while in the
refrigerator... remove them to a warm sunny location. After the chilling
period, move the containers to a warm sunny location. Germination should
occur within 30 days.
- Seed may be planted directly in the bed
during fall for spring growth.
Once your Columbine seedlings have reached 3" or
more and have developed some true leaves... they may be planted outdoors after
danger of frost has passed.
Pre-started Columbine plants...
Most of us don't have the time or the patience to grow Columbines from seed,
nor do we want pots of dirt in our refrigerator. So we
purchase pre-started plants. Columbines can be found in several container
sizes. I've seen them in packs, 3", 4", 6" and 1 gallon pots.
When purchasing pre-started plants... try to find out if the plants were
raised in Colorado. Colorado grown Columbines have an edge over imported
Columbines usually found in the mass markets. Colorado grown Columbines are
already adapted to our unique climate and have a much higher survival rate.
Columbines will grow in full sun in Colorado, but they perform best
where they are lightly shaded from hot afternoon sun. Columbines will adapt
to most garden soils providing the soil is well drained. Ideally plant your
Columbine in soil that is rich in organic matter, moist, and doesn't dry out
to quickly. Planting Columbine's near a south facing wall is generally a
death sentience. Radiated heat will surly dry out and cook the plants. Most
varieties of Columbine will thrive at elevations as high as 9,000 feet... a
few varieties do well up to 10,000 feet.
There is no real trick to planting Columbines. Plant them as you would
any other plant... taking care not to plant them too deeply. You'll want to
keep the surface soil of the transplant even with the surface level of your
bed. Space plants 16" to 24" apart. Mix a little Osmocote, a
granular time release fertilizer (it will last all season) with the soil in
the planting hole.
If you didn't add Osmocote at planting... Columbines should be
fertilized several times per season. The top soil could be top-dressed with
a granular feed, or the plants could be fed monthly with a liquid fertilizer
like Miracle Grow. Feeding all your outdoor plants regularly will help to create
a healthy root system, lush foliage, and large vibrant flowers.
Once established, your Columbines may be divided before new spring
growth emerges. Dividing the plants every 2 to 3 years helps to keep the
Columbines vigorous. To divide your Columbines... dig the plants, shake off the
soil and gently pull the plants apart being careful not to break the roots.
Several varieties of Columbines are profuse re-seeders yielding a new crop of volunteers
the following spring. These volunteers may be transplanted... but be patient
as they may look a bit unhappy for a while.
Aquilegia x hybrida 'Colorado' was renamed 'Remembrance' in memory of
the victims of the Columbine High School tragedy. A portion of the proceeds
from the sale of this hybrid Columbine goes to the Jefferson Foundation
which provides scholarships for Jeff County students.
Columbine does not require mulching for
over wintering, mulching to shade the soil and preserve moisture is beneficial.
Columbine flowers are excellent as cut flowers.
Sap from Columbines may irritate sensitive skin.
Notable Columbine cultivars...
Biedermeier Mix - Blue Bird
Blue Jay - Blue Music Formula
Denver Gold™ -
Music Mix -
Remembrance - Rocky Mountain
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