A Burst of Spring Colour
Many plants in our climate respond to the cold by going dormant over the winter. Perennial plants, like wild columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) stay alive below-ground and re-emerge in the spring.
The delicate, bell-like spring blooms are one of the few woodland flowers that provide bright colour in shady settings. Starting in mid- to late May, red and yellow five-petaled flowers dangle from tall, thin stalks above a mound of attractive, multi-lobed leaves.
Plant several in a cluster and each plant will produce numerous flowers, blooming for two to four weeks. The flowers provide food for early pollinators such as bumblebees, mason bees, sweat bees, and the black swallowtail butterfly. If ruby-throated hummingbirds are in the area, they may also become regular visitors.
Columbine grows well in a variety of soils, but be sure to avoid wet or slow-draining locations. They do best in part sun or dappled shade, so try adding them to a shady border, rock garden or woodland garden with other woodland plants such as wild ginger, wild geranium, foamflower and heart-leaf aster.
For quick coverage, purchase potted plants to add to your garden. Alternatively, plant from seed, but be prepared to wait to see blooms until the second, sometimes third, year of growth. If planting from seed, plan to plant in the fall and let winter do its work to ensure the seed gets the cold and moist conditions it needs to germinate. If planting in spring, you can create the cold, moist conditions needed by keeping your seed in the refrigerator.
When happy in its growing location columbine will self-seed to produce new plants. You can allow new young plants to pop up and grow, or you can gather seed in late summer and spread them where you prefer new plants to grow, or gift the seed to neighbours or friends nearby.