A few days ago I got a delivery of 3 Wild Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) from Bluestone Perennials. This was a fine thing, as I love Wild Columbine. However, I couldn’t remember making this order, nor could I remember where I had intended to put the plants.
But I was not about to look some gift plants in the mouth. Well, not really gift plants, but unexpected. Most likely these were back-ordered during the Great Covid Garden Panic when sellers of seeds and plants were running out of practically everything. Better to show up now than never.
However, this still left me with the problem of location. Whatever I had originally intended was long forgotten. And one thing about Wild Columbine, at least in my experience: you never know where it’s going to make itself at home. (I’m talking here about the eastern, red-and-yellow Wild Columbine. Perhaps other species are more predictable.)
Over the years I’ve planted Wild Columbine in several places which seemed to meet their basic requirements: part shade to shade with medium moisture. In each of these locations, they tend to thrive, but only for a couple of years. Then they disappear – only to pop up in some other unexpected place. But even in places of their own choosing, they are short-lived. At this point the garden is, sadly, a Columbine-free zone.
Why is this? I’ve read that this Columbine prefers alkaline soil, which is certainly not a problem here. Also that they prefer soil that leans to dry, which is actually not consistent with what I’ve observed. The Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center says that they prefer soil that is not too rich. Maybe that’s the problem. When WIld Columbine grows in our garden, it tends to grow big, up to 3 or 4 feet – but it doesn’t stick around in subsequent years.
In any case, my solution to not remembering where to put the Columbines was to split them up. One went to a place that was a little shadier, one to a spot that was a little drier, and one to a spot that was more wet. And now we’ll see what happens.