Northern Shade Gardening

Great Campanula Plant Book

Monday, January 19, 2009 Category: Gardening Books
Dwarf Campanulas by Graham Nicholls

Dwarf Campanulas by Graham Nicholls

Dwarf Campanulas, by Graham Nicholls, is an excellent reference book if you are a Bellflower fan, or would like to know more about them. The book is focussed on the smaller Campanula, which are discussed in comprehensive detail. At 272 pages, there is a wealth of information about the petite bellflowers which are suitable for the front of the border, rock garden or trough.

There are coloured photos of many of the species to help you choose your favourite Campanula, or aid in identification. The familiar bell shaped blossoms are gorgeous. Every variation on the bell shape, from overlapping doubles to open starry petals is evident. Some of the pictures show the bellflowers in gardens or pots, while others show them in their native habitat. Both are helpful for seeing the type of conditions suitable for growing each species.

At the beginning of the book, there is an overview of the world regions where many of the bellflowers originate, which  includes maps. The photos of mountain ranges, with bellflowers emerging from the crevices in rocks, or growing in scree, illustrate why many are suitable for the rock garden or trough. Many other Campanula species adapt well to the average border.

The detailed look at the propagation of Campanula is very helpful. In this section, the specifics of increasing your bellflowers by seed, cuttings, or division are discussed, along with recommendations for appropriate planting mixtures.

Dwarf Campanulas by Graham Nicholls back

Dwarf Campanulas by Graham Nicholls back

Each species of Campanula then gets its own section, many with photos. There are excellent descriptions of the plants. Cultivars and hybrids are discussed too.  Some other genus, that are closely related to Campanula are covered also. Many specific tips are given for the culture of each type of bellflower, as well as the best propagating methods for each one.

The author gives the location from where each species originates, and often who introduced it. I enjoy knowing a plant’s origins, and picturing it in its native habitat. It is fascinating to read the history of the hybrids, or learn in which garden they were first noticed. I appreciate the historical connection to previous gardeners and plant explorers.

It is always a pleasure to read a book written by an expert on a topic who communicates their enthusiasm. I highly recommend this book as an enjoyable read, and useful reference. It is also satisfying to flip through a book full of lovely pictures of blue, purple and occasionally white or pink bellflowers. Although many of these plants are not yet widely available, you are sure to find more perennials to add to your plant wish list.

Here are some of my previous posts on Campanula that I grow in the garden. This is one on Campanula haylodgensis, a double flowering bellflower. This post has a variety of Campanula. Here are some photos of Campanula glomerata, clustered bellflowers. These are Campanula portenschlagiana, the Dalmatian bellflower. The photogenic bellflowers manage to peek their flowers into many of my other posts and photos as well.

Do you grow any Campanula? Which are your favourites, or which have you been wanting to add to your garden?

Mr. Arctic Air Mass Takes a Vacation

Friday, January 16, 2009 Category: General

We wanted to have a Hottest January 15 Ever Party here in Alberta, but it was  a little hard with Mr. Arctic Air Mass hanging around all the time. He tends to bring the mood of the party down, running around knocking people’s hats off, and pinching their ears and noses. We all chipped in to send Mr. Arctic Air Mass on a winter vacation, taking a tour of the south.

Like the other snowbirds, he packed his bathing suit and shorts, and headed south of the Canadian border to have some fun. He volunteered to bring the party ice. We hope you are showing him some Southern hospitality. We understand he’s applying for a green card now.  Our border guards have strict instructions not to let him back into Alberta.

Woohoo, we made it up to 4° C (39° F), not quite the 7° C (44° F) record high that was predicted, but still a pretty good party. We’re planning to extend the party, so could you keep him busy a little longer? Excuse me while I check out the palm section of the garden catalogue.

Paperwhites Brighten Winter

Saturday, January 10, 2009 Category: Bulbs
Narcissus day 18 closeup

Narcissus day 18 closeup

Forcing bulbs indoors in the winter allows you to watch the magic of unfurling flower petals up close. The florets of these Narcissus create small bouquets on each stem.

Paperwhites are especially fun, because they bloom so quickly, and don’t need a long chilling period like most bulbs. It took 15 days for these Narcissus bulbs to flower,  with dainty white blooms. When I first planted them, two of the three bulbs had a tiny tip of green already showing.

Since these bulbs were a present, I wasn’t sure which type they would be, when I wrote about forcing bulbs a week ago. They are labelled as paperwhites ‘Pistachio’, but the only green to be seen is on the long leaves and stems. They have the typical multiple florets of tazetta daffodils, paperwhites.

The top cluster opened first, the initial peek of white gradually expanding to create this lovely white bouquet of florets on the 18th day. Then the other buds opened, each creating a new cluster. Each individual floret has  a tiny corona (cup) which protrudes from the perianth (petals), typical of Narcissus.  The petals are delicate and slightly crinkled, with their rounded edges slightly overlapping.

Narcissus day 19 roots

Narcissus day 19 roots

Here you can see a closeup of the Narcissus roots, which are gradually spreading across the container. Sometimes paperwhites are forced in pebbles when grown indoors. These seem to be doing fine in the soil mixture. Even the tallest flower stem is managing to hold up the blooms without toppling.

Narcissus day 19 leaves

Narcissus day 19 leaves

The thick leaves of the paperwhites rise up, creating a miniature forest at eye level.  Some gardeners have experimented with adding a small amount of alcohol when watering the bulbs, to shorten the stems, and keep the flowers from flopping. Mine have managed to keep a mostly erect posture, despite remaining sober.

Narcissus day 20 newer flowers

Narcissus day 20 newer flowers

These are the smallest and second smallest flowers on day 20. There are 4 or 5 more buds ready to open, and each will create a new cluster of pretty white daffodil flowers.

Narcissus day 20 smallest flower

Narcissus day 20 smallest flower

Fresh growing bulbs brighten up the house on a winter day. Do you have any bulbs opening, either forced indoors, or growing outside?