OT: Aquilegia

Leo A. Martin leo@possi.org
Tue, 20 Dec 2011 15:35:43 PST
I wrote to Dennis
>> ...you should try growing A. chrysantha. It's quite hardy,
>> takes the summer heat if it's in partial shade, and the
>> flowers are fragrant.

and then Dennis wrote
> That's a big surprise Leo, when I look at the USDA plants
> database it seems lots of Aquilegia species are native to
> your region (NV, UT, AZ, NM, TX, CO). But they are
> difficult to find in commerce, so maybe that's the key.

Now I reply
Western North America is varied in altitude, with the greatest variation
in California. The Rockies are very high.

Arizona is divided into the mid to low desert southwestern 3/4 and the
Colorado plateau, the northeastern 1/4, through which the Colorado River
has cut the Grand Canyon. Phoenix elevation is about 1,100 feet / 300m;
Tucson, 2 hours' drive southeast of Phoenix, is another hundred meters.
Flagstaff, on the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau just 2 1/2 hours'
drive north of Phoenix, is around 7,000 feet / 2,100m!

Up on the plateau summers are hot, extremely dry desert in the extreme
northeast and wet enough for expansive stands of fir and pine to the west.
Winters can be bitterly cold with lots of snow - but the soil is rarely
wet for very long until spring thaw. Western aquilegias come from higher
elevations with colder winters, and are usually close to streams that
don't run much during cold winters. Maybe this is important for those of
you who lose them during cold, wet Continental winters. Could you try
mulching with leaves in fall when it's still dry, covering the bed with
plastic, and mulching with more leaves?

A. chrysantha isn't native to our low deserts but survives in our gardens
with summer afternoon shade and plenty of water. I suspect in most other
parts of the world it would take full sun if kept watered. Seed sprouts
easily and rapidly in spring. I didn't get around to planting any this
fall but if I plant some this winter I will report back.

I have seen A. chrysantha seed sold by Park Seed, Thompson & Morgan, and
in seed racks in garden centers here, packaged by Lake Valley Seed, 5717
Arapahoe Ave # 3, Boulder, CO 80303-1373, +1 (303) 449-4882. They don't
list it on their Web site right now but have some others, including A.
caerulea if you search on Columbine:

By the way, columbines do have fleshy roots, so it's not too far off
topic. And it's interesting to learn they're hellebores not ranuncs. I
used to think I couldn't grow hellebores. And now the only ranuncs I still
grow are Ranunculus hybrids and Adonis aestivalis (if the seed be still
viable. T&M doesn't carry it any more.)

Leo Martin
Phoenix Arizona USA

More information about the pbs mailing list