What’s Blooming Now in Philadelphia Gardens? Columbine Flowers

If you garden in Philadelphia, you’re probably a connoisseur of shade plants. We have big old trees hanging over narrow streets. We have tall row houses and looming apartment buildings that block sunlight. And many of us have small, dark backyards. It’s easy to get a hundred gorgeous shades of green packed into one garden, but the options are more limited for flowering shade plants.

You can’t go wrong with bleeding hearts and hellebores, but I have a special weakness for columbines. There are dozens of varieties, and in many cases the colors are exquisite–deep purples, pale yellows, dark reds and pearly blues. The flowers look like something from an alien landscape, and the buds look like tentacled sea creatures.

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

The best part? Columbines are ridiculously easy to grow, and if you don’t disturb the ground too much they’ll reseed themselves easily and come back year after year. Once the flowers dry up, you can help the reseeding process by shaking the seed pods like maracas around the garden. You can also swap seeds or baby plants with friends to give yourself more color variety. This is worth it if you can swing it, because columbines can be pricey, especially the more unusual varieties.

The downside is that they only bloom for a few weeks. When the weather heats up the foliage starts to look a little bedraggled. I like to intersperse mine with another small flowering shade plant called corydalis. Their flowers are not as interesting as columbines, but the foliage holds up better during the summer so they balance each other out.

My columbine collection is recovering from a heavy contractor’s boots that trampled them last fall, but they’ve survived. I’m eyeing a variety called blue origami available online, unless I can find someone with seeds to trade.

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

Photo: Virginia C. McGuire

Below, photos that demonstrate the variety…

↑ Photo by John Hook III via Flickr

↑ Photo by Waldopics via Flickr

↑ Photo by life is good (pete) via Flickr

↑ Photo by Dezz via Flickr

Purple Columbine (June 13, 2009)
↑ Photo by F.A. Barkhouse via Flickr

↑ Photo of single seed pod by Cat Sidh via Flickr

Seed Pods
↑ Photo of seed pods by Urban Combing (Ultrastar175g) via Flickr

What are you favorite flowering shade plants that do well in the Delaware Valley? Let us know in the comments.

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  • ICDogg

    I do hope they continue TC at Lehigh. I like to get out there once or twice during TC.

  • Cali bleeds Kelly green

    Plz if we have a better chance to be better by training at home by having all the amenities of the bubble at nova care and better equipment do so if ur a true birds fan u will want this more than being able to see them play at a college setting where they wouldn’t be able to practice much because of weather we need all the reps we can get with a new system being implemented and no excuses as to why practice had to be stopped or why this player or that player doesn’t understand something or isn’t strong enough plz train where we are suppose to rather than place where we can’t because of weather conditions real fans want wins we have a top of the line training facility use it we can do with out the circus for concentration purposes and better work ethic

  • xlGmanlx

    OTA’s at Lehigh and training camp at home? As a fan, it would stink to miss out on an opportunity like that, but the fans are just here to provide the cash in the new NFL.

  • PaoliBulldog

    As nice as it is to have training camp in quaint surroundings, Kelly’s fanatical attention to practice details requires a facility that doesn’t succumb to rain delays. Jerry Richardson built the Panthers a top-notch facility at his alma mater, Wofford College, and that worked out nicely for both. I’m not familiar with Lehigh’s layout, but I wonder if the football fields and buildings could be upgraded so that the tradition could continue. I’m sure Lehigh wouldn’t mind.

  • SomertonEaglesFan

    I have attended training camp twice and it has been a great experience. As a franchise that has been criticized in the past for ignoring its fans, I think the Eagles should continue with TC at Lehigh and continue to make it a worthwhile experience for the fans. Maybe Jeffrey Lurie should consider building an indoor practice bubble for Lehigh.

  • JofreyRice

    I’m curious to know if strategically, they’d prefer to practice at Novacare. It seems like they’re being very vague about anything concerning how the team will look on the field next year, scheme, philosophy, etc. Do they want to limit the accessibility of practice to maximize that element of surprise?

    • UKEagle99

      I would scout other teams open practices, especially if I played them twice a year. In a game of inches there’s a lot to be said for a competitive advantage.

    • ohitsdom

      I’m also curious how long they are going to hold on to this secrecy. Through mini camps and training camp? Preseason? In the past Chip Kelly has talked about knowing what you do well, and that the whole offense should know what play you are going to call in certain situations. I wonder if that will be given up to be more unpredictable in the NFL.

  • Cooper

    Team bonding? You had your star (?) Corner Back eating lunch in his car and the Defensive Line Coach calling the “Flip Flopped” Defensive Coordinator, Juanita! All under the watchful eye of it’s Head Coach! Good Luck, Kansas City!

  • nicksaenz1

    Never made it to a training camp. While I’m sure it would be a cool experience, I’m more concerned with this team getting back to winning. If practicing in the best facility available means wins at the expense of less fanfare/media exposure, I’m good with it.

  • ICDogg

    If for some reason Chip Kelly thinks there is a good reason to practice in the Novacare instead of Lehigh, I can’t disagree, but I don’t necessarily think there is.

    There will be 90 players and 20 coaches on the field. They don’t need to be in a bubble unless there is severe weather.

    • limodriver27

      ICDogg and PaoliBD…CK’s fanatical “attention to practice detail” becomes his built-in excuse to ditch Lehigh and snuggle himself in the private seclusion of NovaCare. With all the amenities that NCare offers, I’d be quite surprised if Lurie sinks $$$ into a facility that appears to being a piece of Eagles training camp history. Granted that the burb of Lehigh loves the windfall from those camp weeks, it might be time to transition to the “home practice field” advantage. Just a thought…

      • ICDogg

        Maybe, maybe not. I mean, TC is a strange time. There are twice as many people practicing. Not sure if they want to do all of that in the Novacare and furthermore where is everyone staying at this time?

  • defroe81

    :( they gotta do what they gotta do. im from bethlehem so i say it would be good if they keep the tradition.