Although I appreciate the June/July flowers, in my heart of hearts May continues to be my favorite month of the year. The memory of winter with its whiteness has not yet faded, but spring bulbs are still around with their bright colors. The early spring bloomers such as the native trilliums always bring a thrill, while Jack in the Pulpit continues to enchant me with its hidden flowers. The hellebores are still blooming and the bleeding hearts are in full bloom but the sight of my columbines brightening up the garden everywhere is what makes me smile.
I probably started out with a few small pots picked up from a nursery. These plants happily reseeded themselves throughout the garden, with or without my help. Then I picked up a few packages of seed and sprinkled these throughout the garden where they sprouted and grew. Now I have large clumps of many different varieties with different colors and different flower shapes. Columbines like shaded areas and as my garden has evolved over the years and has become more shaded, these plants continue to do well. Large clumps of columbines bring color to the garden with hundreds of flowers beckoning bees.
I used to deadhead this plants regularly (remove the spent flowers) in order to encourage some re-flowering, but as the numbers of plants increased, I have become more radical in flower removal. Now, when 80% of the flower stalks are done blooming, I remove all of the flower stalks on the plants. This way the seeds from the earliest flowers blooming on the stalks have not ripened and dispersed and I don’t have to worry about hundreds of baby plants popping up. Of course, it doesn’t always work out that way, but if a baby plant escapes my attention and grows into a bigger plant, it gets dug up and passed along at our annual plant swap at the garden club. Since these plants are guaranteed to be blooming at our annual swap, they are one of the first ones to be picked up by fellow members. Apparently columbines are also not high on the food chain for deer, which may entice you to try them in your garden as well if Bambi is a regular visitor in your garden.
This year a groundhog is trying to claim the area under the gazebo as its own. Situated on cements blocks and open on three sides (because of the slope in the garden), it makes for a perfect little den. A skunk tried to make it its home, but we managed to evict it. Over the years I have added left-over stones and bricks under the gazebo to make it less hospitable (other than to mice and such), but these obstacles were of no consequence to the groundhog. I noticed the start of a burrow when suddenly freshly excavated soil appeared around the hellebores and ferns next to the gazebo and on my path. I sprayed coyote urine around the gazebo and blocked the open sides with pavers. “Hah!” said the groundhog. "Stinky and measly stones, but I can handle it'. And it did. I added more pavers in front of the original ones. “Hah” said the groundhog, “I can still dig under these”. I added more to block the entrance to the burrow. It remains to be seen who wins; will the groundhog dig deeper or will I run out of pavers? I hope I win, although I am currently looking for some 6 foot tree trunks with a 10-12 inch diameter to use as a more natural looking barrier around the gazebo anchored by rebar driven into the ground a foot or more. Ah, the joys of gardening with natural wildlife thrown into the mix!