Oh, My Darling Columbine

The Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) was looking mighty fine last weekend. I really have nothing new to say about this plant. Just: isn’t it marvelous?



This Columbine is growing near some Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) and Ostrich Ferns (Matteuccia struthiopteris).




In my opinion Columbine should be required in every temperate garden, like seat belts or smoke detectors. Perhaps not as a matter of safety, but it is simply wrong for gardeners to deprive themselves of this plant.



Here’s a Columbine flower with Woodland Phlox (Phlox divaritica) in the background. I only grow the one North American species of Columbine, A. canadensis. There are other species, but I’ve been given to understand that Columbine species will interbreed very readily. Since they are rather short-lived in my garden, I would soon have nothing but Columbine mutts.





Maybe that wouldn’t be a bad thing, but why improve on perfection?




Here’s some Columbine with False Forget-Me-Not (Brunnera macrophylla).


I’ve been told that Columbine actually prefers lean soil. Perhaps my rich soil causes it to grow lushly but then expire early, like a person living on a diet of steak and cheesecake. In any case, it’s a good thing that it self-sows.


Though you never know where Columbine will pop up.


Wild Columbine is like a cloud of dangling red and yellow chandeliers.


It seems like such an improbable flower, but so beautiful.

81 Comments on “Oh, My Darling Columbine”

  1. Your columbine is lovely. I tried a few different kinds several years ago, but they didn’t last long. Maybe I should get the kind you have. Please tell me the sun/shade situation where you have your columbines. Maybe I should try them again and situate them in a different place. I love the idea of plants that are pretty and also self-sowing. Thanks for any suggestions you can give me about them.

  2. I’m the exception to the rule here.

    I do like columbine flowers, but they never seem to attract any pollinators in my garden, grow enormous (3 feet tall is not unusual for the native species) and self-seed beyond any other plant I’ve seen (well, except perhaps crabgrass and love-in-a-mist). They also seem to have no problem here coming back year after year and developing huge, woody root systems. And after their blooms have faded, they often look worse for the wear as leaf miners eat them to shreds.

    So…as a wild plant in a woodland? Lovely.

    But I’m actually trying to evict columbine from my garden.

    (Believe me, it will be a long, long term process to get rid of those zillions of seedlings…)

  3. Your photos are beautiful. It is one of the most common wild flower around here. I am always surprised to see that they do well in very dry road banks in full sun. Even growing wild they are also short lived.

  4. I’d not seen wild columbine before, which is gorgeous. Thank you for posting photos of them. Our garden is full of the… well, what shall I call them… tame columbine? They’re gorgeous too. One day I’ll have to put more of them in a post.

  5. Oh, I’m with you, I just love this plant. I must have about thirty varieties now and only today discovered a gorgeous blue one. They really are delightful and need no nursing, they just seem to get on with it. Yours are adorable.xxx

  6. Lovely pictures! I am a great fan of Aquilegias too, and have many of the A. vulgaris in my rockery, but have tried to get the A. canadensis established in vain. Perhaps it likes a slightly acid soil. Anyway, lovely to see your photos. 🙂

  7. It really is so pretty – I love the ethereal quality of those delicate flowers held aloft on the red stems. Interesting to see that the leaves are toothed, whereas the vulgaris leaves I have here are plain lobed. I’d plant some but I fear it’d quickly mix with my purple and pink A.v. I can see why you like it so much!

  8. I enjoy seeing them each spring when I travel. I have smaller clumps as do you, but yesterday I saw a huge stand some 40′ square at Castle Howard on Roger Brook’s blog. At Longwoods, there is a whole garden dedicated to Aquilegia, very specialty varieties of every color. It is such a beautiful sight I try to see each spring. Mine look pedestrian by comparison.

  9. I love columbine…mine are just starting to bloom right now. It’s fun to see where they’ll pop up next – last year, one appeared in the middle of a clump of juniper and it looked so sweet I couldn’t remove it. It’s blooming merrily away right now. More will follow, I’m sure.

    It’s always a treat to find the wild ones when we’re out hiking in the mountains – you don’t see them that often.

  10. Hello Jason, I have to agree with you, they have a very delicate air and grace and set against the blue false forget-me-nots and with the green of the ferns in the background, it’s come straight out of a “Perfect Garden” book.

  11. I’m growing Aquilegia canadensis from seed this year and our cold spring is has them sulking as tiny seedlings still, I hope they mature to be as beautiful as yours Jason, I can see why you love them so much.

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