The New England state of New Hampshsire extends from the northern border of Massachusetts to the Canadian province of Quebec. The wet springs and falls, long winters, and rocky soil of the Granite State present a special set of gardening challenges. Many New Hampshire gardeners have overcome these difficulties with help from Mother Nature. New Hampshire's own wild perennials brighten their gardens from spring to fall.
Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), according to the United States Department of Agriculture, grows wild in nine of New Hampshire's 10 counties. Its cheery, bell-like scarlet and yellow flowers and delicate three-lobed leaves make columbine a delightful spring-blooming addition to any garden. Keep the plants moist after they finish blooming and the foliage will add interest to your garden until the fall. This low-maintenance perennial likes rich, well-drained soil and light shade. Under the best conditions, it will self-seed and colonize your garden, and is a good choice for large areas. Attractive to hummingbirds, aquilegia canadensis is highly resistant to the leaf miners that wreak havoc on hybridized columbines.
Cranesbill (Geranium maculatum) is a wild geranium found across New Hampshire. Unlike annual geraniums, cranesbill does well in sun and shade. A spreading plant that grows in mounds reaching to 2 feet in height, cranesbill produces a long-lasting spring bloom of pink to lavender flowers. Cranesbill's spicy-sweet smelling foliage turns red and yellow in the fall. The plants do best in moist-rich acidic soils. They are a useful ground cover in wooded areas and their mounding habit is ideal for shade garden borders. Water them in dry spells to keep the foliage at its best. Cranesbill started as seed takes several years to bloom. Mature plants and corms are available through nurseries and bulb suppliers. Plant them in the autumn between 2 and 3 inches deep and 4 to 5 inches apart. Leaving them undisturbed encourages colonization.
Reported growing wild in all but New Hampshire's northernmost Coos county, cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) requires wet , rich soil and protection from full sun. Cardinal flower has a clumping habit with showy spikes of cardinal-red flowers rising 2 to 3 feet above their foliage. The five-lobed flowers make a brilliant contrast to the plant's dark green 4-inch leaves. Blooming form July to September, they draw humming birds and butterflies. Cardinal flowers, with their love of moisture, are great additions to water gardens. Purchase started plants at nurseries. In optimum conditions, they thrive and self-sow. Divide the plants in the spring to keep them at their best.