Columbine blooms in a rainbow of colors: red, pink, white, blue, and purple, and less frequently, yellow. It's often a bi-color, usually with white. The blooms of some cultivars are held erect so the blossoms face you, while others droop almost bell-like, making it hard to see and photograph their delicate structures. All have a typical appearance with petals that have classic spur-like extensions and a sometimes honeycombed appearance to the center of the blossom when the inner petals are deeply curved. The stamens can be either understated or prominent and showy, depending on the variety.
As the larger summer perennials fill out, columbine takes a back seat to the showier larger-leafed hostas, salvia, coral bells, and other perennials and enjoys relative obscurity in the summer garden, providing just enough ground coverage to double as something of a ground cover and help keep weeds at bay.
Because it self-seeds with such abandon, and because the production of seeds saps the energy of the plants, it's a good idea to snip the stems after the blossoms begin to fade, letting only one or a few develop seeds which you can allow them to sow naturally or save to sow indoors or out yourself.
|Just prior to fully opening, the buds resemble shooting stars or little rockets.|
|The inner petals are heavily cupped and give the classic honeycomb appearance to the center of this white columbine blossom.|
|A deep scarlet, this blossom has a creamy white center. This variety is one of the shorter cultivars, with the leaf mound about 6 inches tall and the blossom stems barely reaching a foot in total height.|
|Partially open bud.... the inner petals are squared off and a creamy white.|
|The fully open bloom.|
|The drooping form in the garden doesn't allow you to see the beauty of the deep royal blue blossoms..|
|The face of the royal blue blossom|
|This deep purple and white bicolor is one of the tallest plants, reaching nearly three feet, thrives in full sun in one of the perennial beds in the formal garden. The plant is shown below.|
|Like its royal blue cousin, the blooms of this purple coumbine face downward.|
|This red columbine, "Red Star" is medium height, about 2 feet, and like the taller royal blue, spreads prolifically throughout the garden.|
|Another dwarf variety that barely reaches 10 inches in height, with dark red blooms that cover the densely mounded plant. I believe this plant is a hybrid that self-sowed from other cultivars in this bed.|
|Columbine makes an unusual cut flower display. Buds open poorly if at all once they've been cut, so choose newly opened blooms for an eye-catching bouquet that will last several days. Here, the stems are gathered into a narrow bud vase.|
Definitely the result of self-sowing (it was growing along the edge of the bed in the midst of the ground cover), I moved it to a spot where it would have room to grow and develop. I was surprised when it developed into such a petite plant, covered with small, perfectly formed, solid red double blooms, unlike any other columbine in the garden.
I plan to let this plant produce a stalk or two of seeds to sow in the house next winter, hoping that some will produce more of these lovely compact plants. They would make the perfect accompaniment to the dwarf white rhododendrons we have along the walkway to the shade garden.