A Columbine Garden

The Columbine Garden
, one of the newest and most engaging gardens in the Springfield Botanical Gardens in Springfield, Missouri, has the underlying theme of emphasizing the columbine's delicate flowers and foliage and the flowers' unique spectrum of color.

      Opportunities to see and compare different columbine species and varieties in one place are extremely rare. This garden, however, displays no fewer than 14 varieties, and its creator and designer, retired orthodontist Stan Horsch, plans to add even more in the future.  
      Happily for the home gardener, columbines are unusually easy to grow. Their delicate appearance notwithstanding, the plants are not fragile. Indeed, they thrive in many types of soil and growing conditions, performing their best in moist soil and light shade but also doing well in full sun if given adequate water.
       Columbines all belong to the species Aquilegia, from the Latin word for eagle, the flower's five long spurs reminding some of eagle talons. The abundance of nectar within the spurs makes the plant so very attractive to butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds.
Surprising to many because columbines are so rarely seen in vases, the flowers make superb cut flowers, lasting much longer in water than most flowers.
      Nathanael Greene/Close Park is located at 2400 S. Scenic in Springfield.
      As the garden is just beginning, the following photos show the plants in their first- or second-year stages.

The Beds

The Columbine Garden began in 2010 in the form of two beds designed as mirror images. Stan said at the time that he hoped to add more small beds in the future.

Expanding and Enhancing the Garden

True to his word, Stan in early March of 2011 was already at work building a new bed for the Columbine Garden that he said would allow planting at least 10 more varieties. At right, the new bed complete and planted for the 2011 season.

The New Bed Planted

Finally complete, the new bed was planted and ready for visitors in the Botanical Gardens' 2011 season. 

The New Garden

As you can see, the new bed gives the Columbine Garden richer dimension and much greater visual appeal, a trick Stan was able to turn without  substantially increasing the garden's size. We think his approach here is a superb model for designing any small-space garden.

Our Native Columbine

Our native Missouri columbine is the Red Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis). A wildflower in many parts of the world, it grows in virtually any soil, preferring shade but able to take full sun if given enough moisture. The plant is long-lived, reseeds freely, and seedlings often bloom the first year. Other common names include Wild Columbine, Wild Red Columbine, Eastern Red Columbine, and Canadian Columbine.

The Pink Native

Our native Aquilegia canadensis also has a pink form, sometimes called Pink Columbine or Wild Pink Columbine.

White McKana's Giant Columbine
The White McKana's Giant Columbine is an especially dramatic example of the
famed McKana's Giant series of Columbines introduced in the 1950's and now much loved by gardeners worldwide for their vigor, upright growth, and unusually large flowers up to 4 inches wide. The flowers come in a range of colors, shades, and combinations that include red, pink, yellow, blue, purple, lavender, and white. The plants can grow as tall as 5 feet with a spread of 2 feet. This white specimen seems especially to exemplify the unusually long spurs of the McKana's Giants.

White McKana's Giant Up Close

A closer view of the White McKana's Giant reveals more of the flower's intricate structure. 

Blue McKana's Giant Columbine

The flowers of this Blue McKana's Giant Columbine in late April are just beginning to open. 

Blue McKana's Giant Up Close

A closer look at the Blue KcKana's Giant flower, fully open.

'Songbird Cardinal' Columbine

The 'Songbird Cardinal' Columbine (Aquilegia 'Songbird' Series) is an exceptionally beautiful columbine that in April and May bears very large, upward-facing red-and-white flowers. It grows to 2 feet tall and 1 foot wide in full sun or part shade and likes rich, moist soil. Especially striking in borders, cottage gardens, shade gardens, and woodland gardens, this plant in 2003 won the Award of Garden Merit of the Royal Horticultural Society. 

'Songbird Robin' Columbine

The dusky-rose color of the 'Songbird Robin' Columbine is unique. Like all of the columbines in the Songbird seroes, it grows upright to 24 inches tall with a 12-inch spread. Common names for this one include Granny's Bonnet and Crowfoot.

'Blue Star' Columbine

The 'Blue Star' Columbine is named for its color, of course, and also for the beautiful "star" created by the blue sepals. The flowers also have sunny yellow centers and with the blue blend nicely with its blue-green foliage. The plant grows to 24 inches tall and 18 inches wide. Because it readily crosses with other varieties and reseeds freely, blossoms should be removed unless the gardener wants lots of surprises in succeeding years.

'Swan Violet and White' Columbine

'Swan Violet and White' is one of the Swan series of columbines created primarily for the cut flower trade but which are also superb in gardens and landscapes. They bear a great profusion of very large flowers in colors that include Lavender, Yellow, Burgundy and White, Rose and White, and Violet and White. Note: 'Swan Violet and White' is named in honor of the victims of the shooting at Columbine High School and it's reported that proceeds of nursery and garden center sales go to organizations that promote diversity and tolerance in schools. 

'Swan Violet and White' Up Close

The closer you view this marvelous columbine, the more striking it becomes.

Red Origami Mix Columbine
red-origami-mix-columbine-jpg.jpgThe Origami Mix series (Aquilegia caerula 'Origami Mix') consists of six Columbines with very large, exceptionally showy, 2-3-inch flowers in six colors--white,  yellow, and four combinations of white with blue, red, rose, or pink. The plants grow upright to 16 inches tall and are superb for borders, beds, containers, woodland gardens, and as garden accents or in mass plantings. They also make especially beautiful cut flowers. Note: The Origami Mix are the only columbines that bloom the first year from seed; i.e., seeds planted in spring will flower in late summer to fall; those planted in fall will bloom in early spring.

Yellow Origami Mix Columbine

The Yellow Origami Mix Columbine is may be unique in the subtlety of its color, a very pale, almost cream yellow.

White Origami Mix Columbine

The pure white flowers of the White Origami Mix Columbines make striking statements wherever they grow, and of course are outstanding among plantings of more colorful varieties. 

'Crimson Star' Columbine

'Crimson Star' Columbine (Aquilegia x hybrida 'Crimson Star') grows to 30 inches tall and 24 inches wide in partial shade to full sun and features beautifully symmetrical flowers with crimson petals and a white corolla. It blooms for a month or more in early spring. Bonus: This columbine makes an especially excellent cut flower.

Rocky Mountain Columbine

The Rocky Mountain Columbine (Aquilegia caerulea) is unique for its very subtle, very pale lavender flowers. Native to the Rocky Mountains from Montana to New Mexico, it's been Colorado's state flower since 1899. As a somewhat rare species, it's protected today with limits on how plants and seeds can be harvested. The plant can grow to 2 feet tall with a similar spread and, as you can see, blooms profusely. 

'Winky Double Red and White' Columbine

The 'Winky Double Red and White' Columbine is distinctive for its many upward-facing blooms in late spring and early summer. Given full sun or partial shade, it does beautifully in the Ozarks. Note: The plant's unusual habit makes it especially good for cut flowers and containers.

'Winky Double Red and White' Up Close

A closer look at this remarkable Columbine reveals much more of its unique coloration.

'Leprechaun Gold' Columbine

The 'Leprechaun Gold' Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris 'Leprechaun Gold') strikes a bright note in the garden for its green-and-chartreuse speckled foliage and violet flowers. It likes shade and light shade and grows to 2 feet tall and 18 inches wide. Some gardeners advise cutting the plant to the ground after flowering to refresh the foliage. 

'Woodside Strain' Columbine

Woodside Strain' Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris 'Woodside Strain'), here shown photographed in its second year, seems even more visually striking than 'Leprechaun Gold', perhaps because of the greater contrast in its green-and-gold marbling. The plant can reach 18 inches tall. The flowers may be blue, violet, pink, white, or, as in this case, dark violet.

'Clementine Rose' Columbine
clementine-rose-columbine-jpg.jpgAnd now for something completely different. The 'Clementine Rose' Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris 'Clementine Rose') bears a great abundance of spurless, fluffy pink double flowers that look more like mums or smaller-flowered clematis than columbines. The plant is compact, has attractive dark green foliage, and grows to 12-18 inches tall with a similar spread. Its size and bloom make it outstanding in containers or in garden borders. Some refer to it by the common name Clematis-Flowered Columbine.

Alpine Columbine

The Alpine Columbine (Aquilegia alpina, and also known by the synonymous Alpina montana) is not at all striking in the garden but a quite understated presence. The plant grows to 12 inches tall by 20 inches wide, foliage is lacy, and the flowers appear in May and June and are an inch or less in size and an inconspicuous blue in color. Native to the Alps, it can be found in hospitable climes and exposures elsewhere, including the southwestern U.S.

'Blue Barlow' Columbine

The 'Blue Barlow' Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris var. stellata 'Blue Barlow') sports intriguing fully double, spurless blossoms of violet-blue. Paradoxically, some pictures in books and on the Internet show the color as a clear blue, others as a deeper violet. In any event, the plant is a charmer. It prefers shade and grows to 14 inches tall with a 10-inch spread. One common name is Barlow Blue.

A Pale Pink Mystery

We've not a clue as to the variety of this delicately lovely pale pink columbine, but we're on the hunt. Watch this space.
     Thanks for visiting the Columbine Garden. We hope you enjoyed it.

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