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Vermont Garden Journal: Planting Columbines

Columbine is a perennial flower. It is a tough plant and it usually grows one to two feet tall.

Columbine is a common perennial. Its Latin name means "eagle," for the spurs on the flowers. The common name also means "dove" because when you flip over the flower, it looks like doves sitting around a fountain.
Columbine are tough plants. Native varieties can be found from Mexico to Canada, though it's the hybrids that stand out. Bred for larger sized flowers with different colors, hybrid Columbines can put on a show in a perennial flower garden in early spring.

Look for hybrids such as 'McKana' with its red, yellow and blue colored flowers, 'Cameo' with a mix of flower colors on 6 to 8 inch tall plants and 'Clementine' for its double-flowered blooms.

Tips for planting columbine:

  • Plant in full sun or part shade. They like a moist, rich, yet well-drained soil.
  • Most plants grow one to two feet tall and don't like being divided. Deadhead spent flowers to prevent them from self-sowing unless you want your columbine to naturally spread.
  • Remember that seedlings from hybrids will not come true to color, and you're likely to get one or two dominant colors the next year.
  • Watch out for the leaf miner — a fly that lay eggs on the columbine leaves. The larvae tunnels between the walls of the leaf. If you find them, make sure to pick off and destroy infected leaves. For heavy infestations, cover the plants with a floating row cover until flowering.  

For this week's tip:

Try growing some of your own celeriac this summer. This celery-flavored root should be started indoors now for transplanting in eight weeks. Thin your seedlings to one per pot and make sure to keep them watered. Once established, they're easy to grow.

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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