One thing East Texans have plenty of is shade. If you live on a cleared lot, wait a few years, do nothing and you’ll have trees. Shade is a two-edged sword for the homeowner. On the one hand, it provides welcome relief from our long, hot summers, giving our bodies and our pocketbooks a break. On the other hand, too much shade can make it difficult to grow many of the outstanding, colorful landscape plants that can really liven up a yard.
This is especially true for perennials. The vast majority of plants known for their striking blooms prefer sunny locations and flower poorly, if at all, in shady areas. Of course, azaleas, which are not perennials, are a big exception and do wonderfully under shady conditions.
There is a Texas Superstar for jazzing up those difficult-to-landscape spots in the yard.
Blooming right now is a delicate-looking, yet tough, bold and beautiful perennial columbine which has several common names. ‘Texas Gold’ Columbine, Hinkeley’s Columbine or Longspur Columbine are some of the names given to Aquilegia chrysantha hinckleyana. Most columbines do not fare well in the blistering, humid summer heat of Texas. As a matter of fact, the columbine is the state flower of Colorado, which gives a clue to the type of climate most columbine species prefer. But, ‘Texas Gold’ Columbine is a Texas-tough native, found in moist, shady areas along a few remote streams and waterfalls in the Big Bend area of west Texas. So you know that it is heat tolerant. And it does wonderfully in east Texas landscapes.
It is so tough, adapted to such a large area of Texas, that Extension horticulturists gave it a Texas Superstar ranking many years ago, and it has found a happy home in many flower gardens across the State.
The bright, butter-yellow flowers with large, graceful cups and long, dramatic spurs are held well above attractive, blue-green leaves. The blooming season is long for a perennial, beginning in mid-March and flowering through early May. This makes the plant a nice compliment for azaleas, and the yellow flowers can be matched by yellow pansies or tulips in sunnier areas of the yard.
Unlike some perennials which at times look rather weedy, the scalloped, bluish gray-green leaves and compact, rounded growth habit of ‘Texas Gold’ make it attractive year round. Late in the summer some of the leaves may begin to yellow, and you can either remove individual leaves, or cut back the entire plant to let it sprout out all new growth in the fall.
Columbine will bloom best if it is planted in partial, rather than deep shade. An ideal site is under the canopy of a deciduous tree. This would give it sun-dappled shade in summer for heat protection and brighter sun in winter and early spring when it is actively growing. Columbine needs well-drained soil and does not tolerate wet feet.
‘Texas Gold’ columbine will provide you with a few new plants from seed each year, so you can develop a dramatic drift of yellow with the new plants, or replace older plants as they decline with age. But, it will never become invasive or weedy, and you will welcome the new additions to your landscape, since they blend in so well in almost every kind of design.