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Aquilegia cearulea Rocky Mt.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I adore this plant. I have grown it from seed. It makes it two years: one to grow, one to bloom and then disappears. I just read once the foliage starts to look tacky to cut it down to the grown. Do you do this?
It's not a happy camper in my hot, humid summers. I'm trying one more time to grow this plant and to give it the best possible growing conditions in this climate.
Dappled to mostly shade
Horse Manure mixed with soil.
12 x 12-inch hole.
I'd like to know your opinion on cutting this plant down as mentioned above. Sounds risky to me.
If these (9 grown from seed) don't make it. Then, I won't be trying them anymore. I'll go to some other columbine that can handle my climate. The origami series comes to mind. Or your suggestions would be welcome!

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I can't grow it either, so you've got company.
I have most recently tried growing it (and another beauty, Aquilegia jonesii) in a planter with really sharp drainage, just 1/4 bark-based plant mix, the rest gravel/coarse sand. I read somewhere they require lean soil with sharp drainage, which certainly isn't the case in my yard. So far, both are alive and look fine after 2 seasons of growth, but neither has bloomed yet. So not sure it will succeed but still hoping.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Dastardly heat and humidity! I have read the Rocky Mt Columbine can't make it here due to the humidity.
The 9 that I have grown from seed are on my deck in the shade. I haven't planted them in the ground yet. They look pretty good.
Yes, the A. jonesii is quite pretty.
I think the Aquilegia flabellata 'nana alba' is a cutie. You like "tiny". You should take a look at this one.
Here it is: (scroll down)
http://www.swallowtailgardenseeds.com/perennials/columbine.html#gsc.tab=0
If my Aquilegia caerulea 'Rocky Mountain' doesn't make it, I'm going to try the Aquilegia 'Songbird Nightingale': (again scroll down on the same website)

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

I've tried some of the songbird series years ago - never made it more than a year or two. It's a shame, they're so pretty.
Nora Barlow and brethren (Black Barlow, etc) grow super well here and reseed rather recklessly. A canadensis also. Neither as showy as those songbirds.
My A jonesii is still a tiny plant - can't be more than an inch tall & wide, despite being 2 years old. Leaves look surprisingly healthy. But I suspect I'll never see a bloom. But I'll patiently wait.
That dwarf flabellata might be an option, but I've always been hesitant to try seeds.
I leave the seeds for the real gardeners.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

I found a couple of nurseries that offer the flabellata nana but they are "out of stock". Sometimes they offer it again and sometimes they don't.
I grow Aquilegia (columbine) from seed most years by winter sowing. Pretty easy. Just sow it per directions in a milk jug, set outside, and let Mother Nature do the rest. And, she does!
High Country gardens has this one:
http://www.highcountrygardens.com/perennial-plants/aquilegia/aquilegia-flabellata-v-nana

edited to add:
I do have Aquilegia growing in my yard. It's purple and comes back every year and re-seeds.


This message was edited Sep 10, 2016 7:58 PM

Pequannock, NJ

I have cut down aquilegia for ratty foliage. They usually throw up new foliage but not always. They can go away but maybe they would have anyway.

Now A. jonesii I've tried once. It did OK but once July hit, it disappeared. I figure if I ever get it again, I would take it in for July and August. Where did you find yours?

I've grown some Songbirds, Music and a couple of other large flowering columbine.They only lived two or three years. But I love them. How long do you expect them to stay? I've always considered them to be long lived biennials.

Here is Dove from a couple of years ago. I got it end of year clearance and it bloomed the next spring and that was that. Never saw it again. I liked it more than Rocky Mtn which I grew once or twice. Maybe that one lasted three years.

Thumbnail by Loretta_NJ Thumbnail by Loretta_NJ Thumbnail by Loretta_NJ Thumbnail by Loretta_NJ
Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

In my quick research, I discovered Aquilegias normally live 3 to 4 years, but they "generally" re-seed. Of course, since they cross pollinate so much you wouldn't know what you were going to get. My original Aquilegias are gone but the plants have re-seeded. All of the off-spring are a purple blue even my 'Swan White'. The only Aquilegia I had in this garden was the 'Swan White'. I get quite a few new plants. They are nice, however, I would like other colors. I think they must return to their perhaps original color before lots of cross-breeding: purple.
So, I consider Aquilegia short-lived perennials. To grow from seed for only 3 years of being present is a little discouraging, especially when you consider the sleep, creep, leap rule!. I may have to re-consider growing these from seed and just buy what's available on the clearance rack (if there are any!).
Loretta, your flowers are lovely. Thanks for sharing your pictures.

Pequannock, NJ

If you only want a couple of plants, that seems the way to go but plants are getting very expensive and some 1/2 plants are as much as full price just a couple of years ago. But a well priced plant can be the same price as some packs of seeds.

Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Loretta, your white columbines are really pretty.
I have an area where columbines repeatedly show up, I think due to reseeding.
Not sure why they always stay in this one area.
I recall planting one or two of the Songbirds there.
But the progeny are typically less showy, white/pink or white/lavender bicolors.
Still pretty nice.
I have several sharply draining troughs, a couple of which are suddenly loaded w/ aquilegia seedlings. None have flowered yet, so I'm not sure what they are. I haven't pulled them yet, since I want to see what they look like in bloom first. I guess I'll find out this spring.
As for A jonesii, I don't remember where I got it.
I suspect it was from one of the mail order places which specialize in rock garden plants - I usually get orders from Wrightman Alpines, Siskiyou, Arrowhead Alpines, Laporte Avenue nursery. Might also have been from alpine nurseries which are no longer doing mail order (Mt Tahoma, Wild Ginger to name a couple).

Pequannock, NJ

Thanks for that nice list. There are a few nurseries you mentioned that I never heard of before. I had gotten my plant along with campanula pulla - that one melted along with A. jonesii - from Everymay Nursery in Maine which is gone now.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Well, I just planted a bunch of Aquilegia seeds this week in milk jugs that went outside. Aquilegia cearulea, Aquilegia c. 'White Swan', & Aquilegia McKana Giants. Some of the seeds are old. They may not make it. If not, I'm tossing the seed and starting over.
I also put some of the above seeds in baggies in the refrigerator about 20 days ago. Supposedly, they are to germinate in 4 weeks. So, we will see. Any of you have any experience with these seeds in the refrigerator?

Edited to add: My Aquilegia are still green and healthy right now. They certainly like cold weather.

This message was edited Feb 2, 2017 5:27 PM

Pequannock, NJ


The only sign of columbine I have are a couple of starter leaves here and there but mostly they are still dormant. I never did columbine in the fridge and I never had luck with columbine seed after one year. Maybe I should try the fridge.

Here is a paragraph I found you might find relevant. I copied this from the link below.
https://plantmethods.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1746-4811-3-6

Germination of A. vulgaris seedlings and growth of adult plants

When germinating Aquilegia vulgaris seed, we found that seeds soaked in distilled water for 24 hours, planted in soil and then stratified at 4C for at least 3 weeks show the best germination rates. Seeds germinate approximately 10 days after being removed from stratification. More mature seed, stored for 68 months at 4C, had higher germination rates than fresh seed or seed stored for 12 months. Treatment of seed with gibberellic acid (GA) at varied concentrations did not improve germination of either fresh or aged seed, however it has been previously reported that seed stored at 20C may have overall higher germination rates and benefit from GA treatment [33]. Similar rates of germination were observed for seeds planted in all-purpose nursery soil (Fafard 3 B Mix) versus a 1:1 mixture of fine soil and vermiculite. For the TRV2-AqPDS-VIGS experiment, A. vulgaris seeds (collected from the Harvard University experimental garden) were soaked in distilled water for 24 hours at room temperature and then planted 1/8 inch deep in soil. They were lightly watered, covered, and stratified in the dark for 4 weeks at 4C. After stratification, they were moved to a growth chamber at 20C under long days until germination was observed. For the TRV2-AqANS-VIGS experiment, seedlings were transplanted and allowed to grow for 12 weeks or more, until they had at least 15 leaves, and then vernalized for 8 weeks either outdoors in winter or in a growth chamber on short days at 4C. They were then removed to a 20C chamber and treated 12 weeks afterward.

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Loretta, Thanks for the article.
I have found Aquilegia vulgaris is a bit easier to germinate than Aquilegia caerulea.
After the four weeks in the refrigerator. I'm going to take them out and pot the seeds into seed starting soil. Then, they should sprout. I hope.

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