Great Campanula Plant Book

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?

43 thoughts on “Great Campanula Plant Book”

  1. Northern Shade, I am finally going to try a few campanulas this spring! They look lovely in your garden. We have a native bellflower that doesn’t mind my drier shade…but I think I can baby a spot or two. Recommendations are appreciated. gail

  2. Another wonderful genus that tolerates a good amount of shade. I love C.’Sarastro,’ and ‘Kent Belle,’ very similar with wonderful hanging pendulous purplish blue flowers, and also C. latifolia ‘Macrantha’ with its upright habit and wonderful mauve large flowers…. its is a wonderful addition to the garden and I am now spotting lots of baby ‘Sarastro’s and Kent Belles’ but can hardly complain. I will definitely look into this book as I am sure there are dozens of additions just waiting in the shadows as it were….thanks for a great post!


  3. I do have a soft spot for campanulas too : )
    I like the smaller ones such as the ‘waterfall’ and “dalmatian” .. and I have to say Dickson’s Gold finally won me over .. sometimes that hue of gold is a little bit much but the blue flower against it .. well , it is a looker !
    Are you going to get any of the newer Brunnera ? .. King’s Ransom has caught my eye .. but I still love Jack Frost so much .. I may have to get another one of those !

  4. Gail, of the ones I grow, C. portenschlagiana (Dalmatian bellflower) seems to adapt best to the drier areas. It’s foliage persists through the winter, which always surprises me here. There are many rock garden bellflowers that might do well in your dry climate, if you can give them good drainage too (that holy grail of gardening spots).

    Jen, you’re welcome, it is well worth reading, especially if you admire Campanula. After reading it, you will always be keeping your eyes open as you walk in the mountains, to see if you can spot a new bellflower.

    Tessa, it’s packed with excellent information, about all aspects of bellflowers. I have some other types of C. carpatica, but I’ve never tried ‘Blue Bliss’. It is a very apt name.

    Teza, I have seen C. ‘Sarastro’ and C. ‘Kent Belle’, but I haven’t tried them in the garden yet. The Campanula that takes the most shade in my garden is C. poscharskyana ‘Camgood'(blue waterfall), which has wonderful bluish purple stars. I am surprised by how much shade it can take and still be covered completely in flowers. I have heard that the basic version can spread too much in good soil, but I haven’t had that problem. I don’t know if it’s the zone 3 cold that keeps it in check, or if ‘Camgood’ is less of a problem. Nicholls doesn’t like the basic species, but perhaps ‘Camgood’ is an improvement. I think you would really enjoy the book.

    Joy, it seems we often like many of the same plants. Have you had any problem with blue waterfall spreading too much in zone 5? It doesn’t here, and I wondered. Isn’t the Dalmatian bellflower a trooper?
    I’m always up for another Brunnera. This year I tried the B. macrophylla ‘Mr. Morse’, which has almost identical foliage to ‘Jack Frost’, but with white flowers. I love it.

  5. Hi Northern Shade. Happy New Year. I’ve grown Campanula Rupicola and Campanula Cochleariifolia ‘Bavaria Blue’ in the troughs with great success. Thanks for this book reference and review. I’m reading Alpine Plants of North America also by Graham Nicholls. Although I’m just getting started, it looks like another great reference book. I’ll let you know when I post the review.

  6. Gardener, I will look forward to reading your review of his Alpine book. I haven’t read it, but I would be interested after reading this one. I often take my Rocky Mountain plant ID books when I go hiking in the mountains.
    I think you would really find this book useful, because he also gives a list of which Campanula are especially suited to troughs.
    I love C. cochlearifolia and grow the species, as well as ‘Elizabeth Oliver’, which is an exquisite double.

    Chandramouli, the maps show a great many species from the Caucasus and Turkey, then Greece and the mountains of Europe, and a few from North America, but unfortunately, it doesn’t really show much east of Iran. The author mentions briefly that some grow in the Himalaya. I suppose they are not as adapted to very hot climates.
    How is the plant and seed selection in nurseries around you? Do they have much variety?

  7. I know that I should start the seeds indoors, but usually I just get too busy, and we don’t have any room. So I just pop them into the ground, near the end of February. If I put them in 6 inches deep they take longer to sprout up, but the plants are much healthier.

    I am so looking forward to the sweet tantalizing fragrance of those sweet peas.


    1. Jen, with sweet peas it’s just as well to seed them directly outside. They can go in early, and they don’t like being transplanted anyways. I found when I did it both ways before, the directly seeded ones caught up with the transplants.

      Doctor Mom, I really like the look of C. persicifolia, but at my last garden they got rust, so I haven’t tried them since. It’s about the only problem I’ve had with Campanula. ‘Chettle Charm’ would look great with the soft rose colour.

  8. I grow Campanula persicifolia “Chettle Charm” next to a climbing “New Dawn” rose. The soft colors work well together. “Chettle Charm” needs to be staked early and often–the stalks can’t stand upright on their own. Kind of a problem.

  9. One of my favorites. Some don’t do well in my heavy clay but many do. I just planted Cherry Bells last fall. Interesting book, I’ll have to look at it.

  10. Marnie, luckily there is a wide variety of Campanula, some are very easy care, while some need the drainage of a rock garden, or trough. The book is an excellent reference for figuring out what would do well in your garden.

    1. Jan, they are very charming flowers in the garden. Many of them have extended blooming periods, which is a great trait. Most of the ones I’ve tried have been very hardy too. I also have a weakness for a blue, or almost blue flower, and find the bell shapes very appealing.

  11. Northern Shade, My favorite gardening magazine (in the whole world!) is entitled Garden Gate Magazine. A couple of years ago it featured campanulas and their habits, etc. I have a couple of short ones, but would love to expand the family one of these days. ;-)

    1. Shady Gardener, I will have to look for that magazine. I mostly borrow my gardening magazines from the library, and depend upon their selection. This is a good reference to choose new Campanula to try.

      Barbara, yes, they are good genus to be smitten by, since there are so many species to explore. Dry shade is often a difficult site, and more areas are experiencing drought conditions. The Symphyandras sounds like another good one for Gail to try too.

  12. What a yummy looking book – don’t you love the fact that there are so many different varieties that someone can write one just on little campanulas. I haven’t had much luck with the smaller varieties – tried Meteora – did very well in the first year – a tonne of blooms, and then it just pooped out. Do much better with the Symphyandras – very similar in appearance and do really well in dry shade. More of a biennial for me, but a reliable self-seeder.

  13. I have C. poscharskyana and C. portenschlagiana in my garden, and I love them both! They grow around my pond and my waterfall, and they are just so lovely. This summer, I will take many photos of them…
    Thank you for your nice comment on my blog. I’m not half as organized as it looks! =)
    Have a nice day

  14. Northern Shade,

    Your double campanulas are lovely – they look almost like lisianthus! They are difficult to establish in my very sandy soil – but your photos and posts have inspired me to try again this year.

    Chloe M.

    1. Chloe M, The C. cochlearifolia ‘Elizabeth Oliver’ gets smothered in the light blue double blooms. They establish quickly here. The C. ‘Haylodgensis’ has slightly larger double blooms. I’m hoping that it is hardy, since it is a cross between two bellflowers that do well in my garden, C cochlearifolia and C. carpatica.
      Campanula punctata is supposed to like sandy soil, but it is also ‘vigorous’.

  15. I love my few campanulas and hope to get some more this year. Actually there are campanula glomerata, c. lactiflora (white and blue), c. persicifolia, campanula punctata, c. carpatica, c. trachelium and campanula poscharskyana growing in the garden. Last summer I tried some new sorts, but unfortunately I wasn’t very carefull and the slugs made them dissapear. I wonder whether they will come up again this Spring.

    1. Barbara, it’s too bad that the slugs found their Campanula salad, with luck the plants will come back again. I’m fortunate not to have too many slugs here.
      I love the pretty spires of C. persicifolia. I grow a purple C. glomerata next to some yellow iris, and love the look of the two together, but the blooms of both are short lived.

  16. Nice book Northern Shade! I haven’t seen it. I think I might have to add it to my wish list! I enjoy Campanula’s too, I only have a couple in my current garden ~ punctata ‘Cherry Bells’ (looks like it’s pictured on the cover??) and portenschlagiana, but over the years I’ve had several others too ~ glomerata being one of my favorites. I think they are beautiful flowers and very hardy. I’m glad someone devoted a book to them ~ they deserve that!

    1. Kathleen, I was glad to find the book recently. It is the type of reference book you can refer back to many times, and destined to stay on my plant book shelves.
      The cover photo is a C. punctata ‘Bowl of Cherries’. I assumed it was Cherry Bells, too, until I just checked the inside cover description.
      There are so many hardy Campanula. I have never tried to grow the more particular species that need an alpine greenhouse, with sand tables and pots, although it sounds like fun.

    1. Chandramouli.S, that’s unfortunate that you don’t have an extensive selection of seeds in your area. Here, there is a pretty good variety, and many gardeners order from mail catalogues. It is fun to look at the catalogue photos and make lists, when it is cold and snowy outside.

  17. This book looks as if it could fuel another addiction ! At the moment I only have a couple of campanula persicifolias but I am sure that I could find room for more.

  18. Northie, my particular Canterbury bells have not reseeded, so I do regrow them every year (that way I always have some blooming; same with hollyhock). I don’t sow anything indoors; for the last five (six? I lose track!) seasons, I’ve been solely winter sowing. You asked about my containers. The ones in the photo you’re asking about are in the same plastic, domed seed trays they sell for indoor sowing, only they have holes drilled int he tops and bottoms. I also use milk jugs and other containers, but I haven’t gotten that far this year. The containers can sit on any porous material (earth, grass, etc.). Mine are on that wooden potting bench because it’s what I happen to have. You do need to check for water, but when they’re covered in snow, they’re fine. Watering is more a concern in spring and then when the seeds sprout. Ventilation (propping the lids open so they don’t roast) is also important once seedlings sprout, but you don’t have to keep it up for long; they can be planted out as soon as they get their first set of true leaves–they are already hardened off. You can see some photos of previous year’s seedlings here and here (and a winter-sown tomato here). :)

  19. I love campanulas but two years ago we were invaded by spanish slugs, and they love campanulas too. So this year I won´t try any new campanulas, and prey that the slug eating insects in my garden will multiply. Do you have any idea if there is any species that slugs leave alone?

  20. Sara, I’m not sure of which Campanula are more slug resistant, and Nicholls doesn’t particularly mention any. It is too bad that the Spanish slugs have invaded your area. I have a drier climate, and so far have been fortunate not to have too bad of a slug problem. Do you think that those growing in troughs would have a better survival rate?

  21. You inspire me to grow more of these little beauties with all the info and lovely photos you post. Thanks for telling us about this beautiful book.
    I’m glad you enjoyed the bird photos. It’s always nice to find your comments in my inbox. Thanks for visiting :)

    1. Kerri, there is such a good variety of Campanula to choose from, that it is always easy to find another one you want to try. The book is useful for making lists, or finding specific cultural information.

  22. I HAVE TO HAVE THIS BOOK. I’ll just have to talk to my bookshelves, so they can adjust themselves once more.

    It’s interesting to read different experiences in growing campanulas; I’ll have to come back when I have more time to take the info in in depth. I have had no disease problems at all with Campanula persicifolia, but it does like more sun than the other campanulas I have grown. I do have some rust (I guess it’s rust) on my C. medium plants but it never seems to bother them particularly; I leave them alone and they keep making leaves and flowering their heads off. This laissez-faire attitude might not work if my climate weren’t so dry.

    1. Pomona, I think you would enjoy it, and no doubt find more beauties to add to your garden wishlist. I should probably try again with Campanula persicifolia, since the flowers are so beautiful.

    1. Pomona, the C. cochlearifolia really are very charming little plants. They grow well, and will spread without annoying the surrounding plants. The tiny little bells are delightful. I like both the species, and the double, ‘Elizabeth Oliver’. They seem especially nice next to silvery foliage. They flower for along time too, so you get lots of beauty for the space.

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