The flowers are about the size of a quarter, which tells you how small the plants are. The other plants in the bed are miniature roses.
Aquilegia, or columbine, takes its name from the way parts of the flower resemble eagle claws. Columbine, the popular name, refers to how some kinds of aquilegia flowers cluster together like nesting doves. Don’t let the dove-like name fool you – this is not an edible wild plant, and parts of it will make you very sick at your stomach or even kill you if ingested. You can handle it, but don’t eat it.
This plant is full size, growing to two or three feet high. The pure yellow ones self-seed. Heck, they’re more promiscuous than [insert example here], and two plants are now an entire twenty-foot long (six meters) flower-bed worth. Happily, they come up late, so we do get some bulbs before the eagle-claws attack. They will keep blooming all summer and into fall, although the heat of mid-summer slows them a little. The one shown above is one of a few survivors of a non-pure-yellow kind. The yellows will cross-pollinate and dilute out other colors.
They do well from zones three to nine, in almost any kind of soil. Some tolerate full sun, but most do better in part shade. They do like to take over, so be prepared. Birds will seed them in places you did not intend. Down here they die back in winter, usually before the first frost, so we trim the spent plants and compost them.
A few years ago I tried the classic Colorado blue and white columbine, but July-August was too much for it, as was the yellow kind. Ask around for a type of aquilegia that works in your environment.
I used to purchase most of my plants from the place listed below. They were bought out, and their quality got a bit hit-and-miss for a while. Plus we now have Canyon’s Edge native-plant greenhouse, so I buy local.