Popular Flower Types
The best way to start your garden is with seeds. These are easy to grow and will produce flowers year after year.
When choosing seeds, look for varieties that are suited to your region and climate. Make sure to plant them in well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight.
One of the earliest and showiest spring blooming perennials is the delightful columbine (Aquilegia ssp.). Blooming in hues of red, pink, white, blue and purple, the flowers are quite unique. Each five-petaled flower has long backward-extending spurs, pouches that are extensions of the petals. These pouches contain nectar. Needless to say, columbine flowers are a hummingbird favorite.
At the local nursery you will find columbine plants offered three ways: as one-gallon instant blooming plants, four-inch pots and small starts in six packs. The small starts most likely will not bloom until next year. Columbine is also quite easy to start from seed, though seeds started this spring will not bloom until next year.
While the hybrid columbines sold in the nurseries are flamboyant, the local, native species Western columbine, A. formosa, is equally as beautiful. Usually this columbine can be found at native plant sales later in the spring. Western columbine is easy to start from seed. Unlike the hybrid columbine, the native species blooms from late spring through midsummer. It is a hummingbird favorite as well.
Columbine grows best in a woodland-type setting, full sun on the coast or part shade inland. It prefers rich, well draining soil. Native Western columbine has similar requirements. At planting time, use a 4-4-4 natural fertilizer. Apply again in the late fall for established plants.
While columbine is a not long-lived perennial, it does reseed easily. Flower color may change when hybrids reseed.
Terry Kramer is the site manager for the Humboldt Botanical Garden and a trained horticulturist and journalist. She has been writing a garden column for the Times-Standard since 1982. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.