Okay, first winter post of things growing in the garden (that were deliberately planted, at least). I’m starting with this one because I like the sound of the Latin binomial.

Aquilegia is derived from the Latin aquila, meaning eagle. It’s probably a reference to the shape of the flowers (like bird claws). The common name Columbine means dove and probably also refers to the flower shape. The specific name canadensis, means, believe it or not, “of Canada.” The common name for this species is the Eastern Red Columbine (or Eastern Wild Columbine): the species is native to (north)eastern North America. There’s a very similar species native to the western side of the continent called Aquilegia formosa…the Western Red Columbine.

Like most columbines, A. canadensis is a short-lived perennial. It lives for about four to six years, but fortunately seeds very freely and the seeds do not require a cold period to germinate. They prefer disturbed ground (it doesn’t need to be too rich) and tolerate various levels of moisture. Unlike many other columbines, especially the various ‘Garden Columbine’ hybrids, it does just fine in full sun, although it certainly prefers a shady situation. The one in the picture below is growing in full sun. They form small clumps with flower stalks up to three feet tall. When the seeds ripen, the stalks often fall over, thus shaking out the seeds.

Around here they’re mostly trouble free – like most plants in their native habitat. A bit of leaf miner damage is to be expected, but in this case it’s seldom enough to affect the plant and is more of a cosmetic concern.

Theoretically they ought to attract hummingbirds, but mine always flower just before the annual hummingbird migration gets this far north: late spring (the hummingbirds arrive in summer). Deadheading may encourage a second flush of blooms.

Pretty much all Aquilegia species hybridise quite readily with each other, so to maintain a stable population different columbines should be planted as far as possible from each other. EasternRedColumbine2