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by stone


02/07/2012 in gardening, shade garden, Spring Garden

columbine sending up bloomstalk

As I’m seeing the columbines beginning to send up bloom stalks, I believe the time has come for a comprehensive post.

I first posted many of these pics at the myspace shade group, they took down the forum posts last year, I need to put this information back up.

Columbine is a great plant for the edge of the forest.columbine seedbed

Light requirement

Columbine do need some sun… Plant in part sun to part shade in GA, in northern states, columbine has better tolerance for sunlight, and may thrive in a sunny location.


Columbine do best planted from fresh seed…. meaning collect when ripe & replant immediately.

I’ve found that in my area, columbine do not self-sow worth shucks. I need to sow the seed in a seed bed similar to carrots…. Sow the seeds on top of the soil
I spoke to someone about sowing columbine seed recently, who couldn’t understand why her seeds weren’t coming up… turned out that she was giving them a good Christian burial…
blue columbine

Bloom time

Columbine bloom the next spring after a summer sowing in Georgia.
They are a short lived perennial, living 3 to 7 years, but their ease of propagation, make them well worth planting.

Set columbines out before blooming…. In the autumn when the columbine plants are large enough to handle, or in the spring before blooms open. Survive-ability dramatically declines after the blooms open.

This includes container-grown columbines… Which typically die after being decanted from those pots… It may take a month or two… My experience is that nursery-grown plants don’t usually survive being planted in the garden.

columbine bed

Localities found

Columbine can be found growing wild all over the continental US, and over much of Europe and Asia. This has led to a ton of cultivars as they love to cross with each other.

If columbines haven’t done well in the garden at your house, it may be time to plant a local variety. In Texas, there is big yellow flowering plant, and we all remember the Columbine school named after the blue flower growing in the Colorado mountains. On the Eastern side of the country, there’s a dainty pink variety (red and yellow)…

After planting a local columbine, the other nursery columbines will cross into the local population, and retain some of the previous characteristics while gaining the ability to survive in the existing climate.

I posted about landrace cultivars recently, which discusses developing locally hardy plants.

water requirements

I have a population of columbines that were grown without a drop of water in my droughty Jeffersonville Georgia garden over a number of generations, and when I carried the seeds to another garden in Macon GA, the seeds from the earliest bloomers were selected over a number of generations… Leading to drought hardy early blooms… in theory.

Last year was as dry as it’s been yet, after a number of increasingly dry years. In my new sand-hill garden, the vegetables all died, but the columbines weren’t bothered… I may be on to something.

lotsa colours of columbines

Spreading some mulch can be helpful in controlling weeds, and helping the soil to retain moisture.

mulching the columbine

Cultural difficulties

After columbine bloom, the foliage gets ratty…

Nothing you can do, summer is when columbine send up new leaves. I’ve found that while columbine is relatively pest proof most of the year, the new leaves are attractive to the local predating deer. Don’t allow them to graze the columbines! The deer will kill them!

An egg in a blender full of water will usually suffice to keep the deer off the columbine. I use a watering can to sprinkle the mixture over the leaves. I’ve seen a loop of poultry netting over the columbines used with success, the drawback is having to live with the wire…

Speaking of wire…
When attempting to grow from seed in a yard plagued by squirrels, and worse, armadillos, a bit of chicken wire stretched over the seed bed can be just the thing…

chicken wire over bed

I’m partial to columbine, and after growing these easy ferny March-bloomers, I’m sure that you will be hooked as well.

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by stone

What’s wrong with Betty?

02/02/2012 in gardening, Plant Diseases, shade garden, winter gardening

Miss Betty Ranicar seems to be a bit under the weather.Betty Ranicar hellebore flower
She has black spots… looks eerily similar to black spot on roses.

Betty’s boss thought that maybe it was something she ate. He’d fed her some camellia fertilizer.

I kinda doubt those chemical fertilizers can be that specific.
I wouldn’t know from personal experience, but when I feed my babies horse poop, and chicken poop, nobody tells me that they aren’t getting the right kind, they all just smile and ask for a little rain water to chase it with.

hellebore leafspot
Anyway, I thought that she mighta caught something somewhere, and put her in quarantine.
We certainly don’t want anybody else getting sick…
On reflection, I find myself wondering if maybe she’s complaining about being drowned.

She was growing in an area where the clay from the house had been dumped. That entire area woulda made one hella bog garden…
When Betty’s boss complained about the little patch of turf he has near Betty, that it was holding water, I advised him to get rid of the turf, plant sarracenia, water lilies and lotus blossoms…

hellebore leafspot
I couldn’t convince him… He wanted the turf… I suggested using an electric drill and a bulb auger, drill some drainage holes, fill with gravel, instant drainage… He did, it worked, everybody’s happy… except Betty.

Google is our friend…

On searching “black spot on hellebore” I immediately discovered to my chagrin that hellebore leafspot is a serious hellebore disease, that seems to have possibly arrived with one of the recent purchases from the nursery and infected poor Betty before they died.

There is also a disease known as hellebore black death. Sure don’t want any of that…

Betty could get better by practicing good hygiene… Betty’s employer has an assortment of fungicides, and I’ll leave it up to him if he wants to jump immediately to that solution. I’m not gonna handle that stuff, keeping the plant in isolation would be the solution of choice in my garden…

The extension service tells us that due to the heat and humidity in the state of Georgia that if there’s a plant disease, we have it. Apparently we have something like 95% of all plant diseases…

I suspect that Betty was stressed living in the wet clay, and the stress made her susceptible to the hellebore leaf spot.

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by stone

2011 Spring pictures

01/04/2012 in gardening, shade garden, Spring Garden


(part 2 of a 4 part series)

Spring came in with beautiful flowers and promise.

By the time of the columbine bloom, the gardens were complaining about the lack of rain. Columbine and bearded iris don’t mind dry weather, and were very pretty.

The pollen was severe. The trees were all thinking about love, and the rains didn’t arrive, we are all swimming through a sea of tree jizz, sneezing, coughing and the shade garden seemed like a place to be avoided…

The Spring of 2011 was also the year of the cicada. When outside in the garden, the chorus was so noisy that carrying on a conversation with visitors to the garden in a normal tone of voice was impossible.

As the drought gained in severity, an unwatered garden became a desert.

Even the desert blooms, and we still had beautiful flowers in that dry hot year. Knowing the plants that tolerate the existing conditions is important when planning the garden.

On to Summer

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