Campanula medium aka Canterbury Bells
If you always wanted to indulge in the pleasures of cut flowers, Campanula medium is a quintessential cut flower from France—romantic, bold and old-fashioned. It is full of history and beauty. It is one of the least expensive and most interesting cut flowers.
Campanula medium migrated from France and Italy to the warmer climes of Europe before making its way to the rest of the world. We are so glad it did! The strong stems on Canterbury Bells grow to at least two or three feet tall and produce plenty of beautiful and bold bell-shaped flowers in the spring of the second year. Because it is a biennial, only a rosette grows the first year. Campanula medium ‘Calycanthema’—Cup and Saucer is a popular cultivar of Campanula medium which is even more superb than the species. The large calyx under the bells creates the saucer-under-the-cup look. If you buy a seed pack labelled Campanula Cup and Saucer Mix chances are good that you will end up with some plants with saucers and some without saucers.
Campanula medium fits into a cottage garden or perennial border. They fit in best if planted toward the back of the border with other tall plants such as Digitalis and Delphinium. Campanula medium companion plants include Chrysanthemum, Iris, Peonies and other tall plants that bloom in the spring. Planting perennials like Echinacea and Gallardia with them fills the void after the flowers fade, carrying the garden through the summer and fall with plenty of color. Campanula medium also makes the most stunning cut flowers ranging in colors from blue and lavender to pink and white. Cut flowers will last a week or more if you change the water and make a fresh cut. Your cut flowers will be curvy if grown laying down—not necessarily a bad thing. An interesting arrangement sometimes includes curvy stems.
After breaking one of the stems while attempting a late staking, I discovered that mixing the not-yet-ripe green flowers with the flowers in full color create an interesting arrangement.
No need to throw out the short stemmed flowers. They make small inexpensive arrangements to share with friends. They will absolutely love them!
As with most garden plants, it’s a good idea to add compost to the soil when planting. Give them a little boost with fertilizer in early spring before they bloom. Protection from slugs when the plants are still young may prove helpful to your small plants, though I don’t see any slug damage on mature plants. Canterbury Bells may need staking to prevent the tall stems from tipping over. Campanula Cup and Saucer, heavier with the large calyx, may grow taller than the species Campanula medium. Therefore, they will most likely benefit from staking. Good advice is to stake the plants before they tip over which is right about when the flowers open. Staking keeps the stems from breaking and will also allow the racemes to grow in an upright manner for better cut flowers. If you don’t cut off all the flowers for bouquets, you can collect seed for new starts after they finish flowering. After you collect the seeds, cut the plant back to promote a second batch of leaves and possibly even another wave of color. The second bloom is never as profuse as the first one, but still worth it. If you leave the last batch of flowers on the plants they may self seed for next season. Because Campanula medium is a biennial, do not count on its return the third year. Be ready to seed a new crop each year in the spring or summer to assure yourself a continual succession of flowers each year. You can transition the seedlings to a larger pot outside to harden them off before transplanting them into the garden in the summer or fall.
All of the cut flowers seen here came from just two plants seeded directly into the garden the prior year. Even after removing all of these flowers, plenty of color is still left in the garden. This is why Canterbury Bells is worth the effort!