June 20, 2011
Love You 'Melba Higgins'!
When I listed the flowers blooming in the garden last week, I did not mention 'Melba Higgins' aquilegia (columbine), but this little plant is the biggest thing going on right now in the backyard.
A few years ago I planted three tiny plants from Bluestone Perennials, then saved the seeds that formed and sprinkled them through the garden. Last year these seedlings were too small to bloom, but this year they're blooming their heads off.
The Melba Higgins show is especially noticeable this year, since the cool spring has kept so many other things from blooming so far. Delphiniums, iris and peonies would usually be full of flowers by now, but many of them are still sitting in bud stage. 'June Bride' heuchera, shown above, is an exception.
There are a few other blooms in the backyard, like this red peony from my friend Cindy. Glowing, rich blue-violet Melba Higgins complements these other flowers nicely. MH blooms spring to summer for four weeks or more, once established.
This columbine grows 24-30" tall and 20" wide. It's happy in full sun to mostly shady areas in zones 3-8 and handles a range of soil types. The delicate, lacy foliage fits in well around other plants, and its wide tolerance of sun conditions makes it a nice plant to add continuity to both sunny and shady areas of the garden.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of my Melba Higgins show is that it came (mostly) from seed. Big output from a small input! Seedlings will come true if it's the only type of columbine in your garden, but if you have several types then they'll probably produce hybrid seeds.
Since MH has been blooming for several weeks already, the show will soon finish up and I'll deadhead the plants to encourage them to save energy for next year instead of making more seeds. I'm very grateful for MH's ability to fill a blank spot in the blooming calendar, though!