Northern Shade Gardening

Hardiest Flower in the Garden

Monday, November 1, 2010 Category: Perennials

We’ve had a number of frosts down to -7º C (20º F). Far too chilly for most plants, but the perennial that keeps flowering is Campanula rotundifolia (harebells). The pretty blue bells are suspended from thin flower stalks, looking ethereal and graceful. Although they appear too delicate for the weather, they are actually extremely hardy flowers. The snow was thick and heavy before it melted, and I’m surprised they didn’t get flattened like other plants in the garden.

Campanula rotundifolia harebells in snow

Campanula rotundifolia harebells in snow

You can see in the photo above that after the recent snow, I’ve grown slack with my deadheading. However the Campanula rotundifolia continue to bloom, and actually have a fair number of flowers. Perhaps I will be tromping out in my boots this winter, and brushing the snow aside in order to keep deadheading the spent flowers. ;) They are doing their best, and I don’t want to let them down. These hardy perennials have been in bloom since June, with those pretty petals that flare gracefully at the bottom. This link shows how the harebells look in summer.

An honourable mention goes to Helleborus ‘Ivory Prince’ for faking it by keeping the flowers bracts for so long. ‘Ivory Prince’ tried to convince me that you don’t need petals, stamens or a pistil to be considered a flower. I threw in bonus points for it having started flowering last April, but it still came in second place. Campanula portenschlagiana (Dalmation bellflower) is another runner up for hardiest flower, but it doesn’t have as many blooms as in previous years.

Campanula rotundifolia flowering in late fall

Campanula rotundifolia flowering in late fall

There are many foliage plants that still have great looking leaves, but very few perennials want to keep flowering at the end of the season once they’ve been snowed on, and when the temperatures drop so low. I have a lot of respect for Campanula rotundifolia, and its willingness to continue flowering for so long. Now excuse me while I do some deadheading, if my fingers don’t go numb. What is the hardiest flower in your garden?

Campanula rotundifolia harebells closeup

Campanula rotundifolia harebells closeup

63 Responses to “Hardiest Flower in the Garden” »

  1. Sweetbay :
    November 1, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Those Campanula are lovely. So dainty-looking. The hardiest flower in my garden is Aster ‘Miss Bessie’, a Willow Aster. It usually starts blooming about a week before Halloween, about the time we get our first frost, and continues for about a month.

  2. Northern Shade :
    November 1, 2010 at 11:53 am

    Sweetbay, Miss Bessie sounds great to bloom through November. I like to have something still giving colour in the garden, besides the Autumn foliage which doesn’t last long here.

  3. Marit :
    November 1, 2010 at 12:57 pm

    It is amazing how hardy some plants can be. Campanula rotundifolia grows here too, but I have not seen it since July. I have one Campanula potenschlagiana who is still in bloom. The hardiest plant here must be Gentiana sino-ornata. It blooms in snow and rain until the temperature comes under – 6.

  4. Catherine :
    November 1, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Well I hope my C. rotundifolia does as well as yours. I planted it this summer and just peeked outside while reading your post to see that mine is still covered in blooms too. This winter should be a good test for it since we are predicted lots of cold and snow.

  5. Northern Shade :
    November 1, 2010 at 4:46 pm

    Marit, now that you mention it, the wild Campanula rotundifolia out in nature were finished flowering back in summer, but my garden ones persist. I have a few Campanula portenschlagiana flowers, but not many out of the dozens of plants. Some years they have had flowers in late fall as well. The Gentiana sounds like an excellent perennial for late fall flowers.

    Catherine, the C. rotundifolia is my longest flowering plant. It even puts up with some fairly shady areas, although it would probably prefer a bit more sun.

  6. Laura :
    November 1, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    I still have a few of the same blooming. Snow! Say it ain’t so!

  7. Linda at Meadowview Thymes :
    November 1, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    Hum…that is a very good question! And I don’t have an answer, but I guess pansies for us. Our winters are not very cold, but cold enough that other things just die with the first frost, but even in last years snow and ice–those pansies bounced right back!

  8. Northern Shade :
    November 1, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    Laura, we were fortunate and this first snow melted after four days. The brave harebells bounced back very well, although the freezing temperatures continue at night.

    Linda, I admire the hardiness of pansies, and have no idea how the name became associated with a wimpy trait. I sometimes put them out in earliest spring before the weather is reliable.

  9. The Garden Ms. S :
    November 1, 2010 at 9:37 pm

    Hi Northern, other than a few petunias still hanging in there in a pot, my flowers are all sleeping. The neighbour has what I believe are painted daisies (could be wrong) blooming still, as they have every year. I always think of them as the last flowers of the neighbourhood and how smart they are to have planted them.

  10. Northern Shade :
    November 1, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    The Garden Ms. S, last week’s cold temperatures convinced most of my plants that winter is coming. The annuals have died, and most perennials have receded. The hardy foliage perennials and some Campanula are holding the show now.

    Your petunias are very courageous. It’s nice to have some colour in your pots still.

  11. Kathleen :
    November 1, 2010 at 10:35 pm

    I certainly don’t have anything that hardy! Usually after it snows here, everything is over. I do have a Diascia blooming that survived the first hard frost ~ it’s been a perennial in my garden for at least four years now.
    I’d say your Campanula is a keeper ~ if you can get it to keep blooming all winter ~ I’ll plant some here! :-)

  12. Rebecca @ In The Garden :
    November 1, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    I just love these little blue bells!! It is truly amazing that the are so very hardy given their delicate appearance. Proof that looks can be deceiving. :)

  13. easygardener :
    November 2, 2010 at 7:31 am

    I wish I knew more about plant biology. You would think the Campanulas would stop flowering once it got so cold – no pollinators, wasting energy, possible damage etc. It’s not as if their only role in life is to flower for the gardener!

  14. Northern Shade :
    November 2, 2010 at 7:47 am

    Kathleen, the Diascia sounds like a plant I should try, since it it survived your first frost.

    I’ll let you know how long the Campanula keeps going. Last spring, when the snow melted, I actually found a blue flower (rather wilted like a wet tissue) still on one of the C. rotundifolia, and one on the C. portenschlagiana. Even though they were crumpled and bedraggled, they made me smile to find the remnants still blue.

    Rebecca, these charmers lifted my spirits when they stayed upright as the snow melted off of them. It gives me another reason to go out poking around the garden still, to see what I can discover.

    Easygardener, their ability to please the gardener is what makes them so endearing, but you are right, I don’t see any brave pollinators still buzzing around.

  15. waltraud :
    November 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Hi, this is very surprising that such tender plants to withstand even the snowdrops, holding the extreme W etter from.
    A beautiful post.

    I wish you a good start in November.

    Grues Love Walter

  16. Northern Shade :
    November 2, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Waltraud, since their flowers are so dainty looking and their stems so slender, they look as if they should be fragile, so it is reassuring to see them upright with the snow drops melting off of them. I am hoping that the permanent snow doesn’t start in November, because it makes such a long winter.

  17. patty :
    November 3, 2010 at 8:28 am

    Very pretty. The whole genus is lovely. I am jealous you still have something in flower at this time -and with snow!

  18. Gail :
    November 3, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    Can you feel my green with envy feelings all the way up there! THis lovely can’t tolerate our heat, but I love them! Our hardiest flowers are the native asters~They’ve been blooming for more then a month and will continue some after the frost~gail

  19. debsgarden :
    November 3, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    Wow – blooming since June and still going in the snow! This really is a pretty flower and deserves all the praise it gets.

  20. Northern Shade :
    November 3, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    Patty, Campanula are one of my favourite genus, since they have such pretty flowers, and many have a long blooming time. I have to admire the stoicism some of them show, like the C. rotundifolia.

    Gail, I’ve seen the beautiful asters you have in bloom. They make another pretty blue for the fall. There are a number of wild Campanula rotundifolia where I go walking, but their blooms don’t last as long as the ones in my garden.

    Debsgarden, I have these harebells planted next to some Pulmonaria with silver grey foliage, which set them off well. On the other side are some silver green Heuchera. The silver coloured foliage goes well with the blue flowers of this Campanula. In front I have some shorterCampanula cochlearifolia that have slightly smaller blue bells.

  21. Lineca :
    November 5, 2010 at 3:18 am

    Hello Northern shade.
    Thank you for your wonderful comment on my garden blog.
    One can wonder indeed how fast nature reclaims our gardens. The house I showed have been empty for 8 years.

    You have a wonderful blog . And you got the taste for beautiful ornamental plants also. I like that. I can never get enough of those.
    Wishing you a wonderful day.
    Lineca :)

  22. Northern Shade :
    November 5, 2010 at 8:22 am

    Lineca, thanks. The harebells are very ornamental and spunky perennials. As the season is closing down, I’m enjoying those plants that keep up a good display.

  23. stadtgarten :
    November 5, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    I love campanulas, they are so “simple” but very beautiful!
    Have a nice weekend, Monika

  24. Northern Shade :
    November 5, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    Monika, I have a lot of affection for Campanula and their wonderful flowers also, especially because so many are very hardy in zone 3.

  25. Plants Pages :
    November 6, 2010 at 1:35 am

    Hi Northern shade,

    This is my first visit to your blog..Looks good! your site is well organised and interesting.
    And pictures are really beautiful. Have you taken them by yourself?

    Sunu Mariam

  26. Northern Shade :
    November 6, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Sunu, thanks, yes all of the photos are ones I took in my own garden. It is fun to walk around and see what is new or blooming in the garden, although now it will be a few months before there are new flowers.

  27. Maria Berg :
    November 7, 2010 at 12:51 am

    Yes it is still standing.
    When I did take photo more serious I started out in the late summer and then the autumn came and then winter and just like you it was the bluebell that did keep standing.

    On my my blog you said:
    “They (garden gates) give the sense that there is something mysterious to explore on the other side.” could not have said it better my self. Thank you!

  28. Northern Shade :
    November 7, 2010 at 7:24 am

    Maria, some years, I’ve had a few Campanula still in flower at the beginning of December, which is very late here.

  29. kb :
    November 9, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    Also in Edmonton, I have several reblooming primulas — polyanthus, juliana, a marginata, a cowslip, and a few auriculas (some of the latter are seedlings that weren’t big enough to bloom this spring). Their flowers last a long time in cool weather. I’ve seen a few violas around, too. And a pink-flowered strawberry that doesn’t know when to quit. My harebells (brought in from the wild) finished blooming in summer, but I never deadheaded them.

  30. Northern Shade :
    November 9, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Kb, the primula would be beautiful flowering now, especially getting some late flowers from new seedlings, like a flashback to spring. You have to admire violas for being willing to bloom through anything. I deadheaded the harebells, but not as regularly as some other perennials.

    Tonight’s predicted low temperatures will definitely test our hardy flowers.

  31. Joy :
    November 10, 2010 at 5:55 am

    NS girl !
    I totally agree with you on the hardiest .. I have these too and they are amazing .. but I am so curious to see a bed full of hellebore for next Spring .. now that is what will keep me going all winter ! : )

  32. Northern Shade :
    November 10, 2010 at 7:19 am

    Joy, it really perks you up to see some flowers when so much of the garden is turning beige. The hellebore are still green and fresh looking, and I look forward to those early spring flowers, too. My hellebore are the first perennial flowers to bloom, right after the earliest spring bulbs.

  33. Kelly (The Sorry Gardener) :
    November 10, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    I can attest that the harebell’s are hardy in other ways. I dug up a clump and stuck them in a plastic pot last summer and they thrived through winter with no protection and another entire summer with no water to speak of. Anything that lives in my garden under such abuse is more than welcome. I interview hard here. LOL And, of course, hellebores are second-to-none in my book. One of mine bloomed again in October.

  34. Northern Shade :
    November 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Kelly, I have another group of harebells in deeper shade, now squeezed between a yew and some Brunnera. I keep intending to move them, but meanwhile they have been thriving. They twine in between the Brunnera leaves and against the yew needles, but I should give them more space. A second set of new hellebore flowers would be lovely for October.

  35. Anonymous :
    November 11, 2010 at 1:21 pm

    We do not usually get snow until the frosts have killed everything off so lucky in that respect. That campanula is a little gem.

  36. Anna :
    November 11, 2010 at 1:23 pm

    Did not mean to be anonymous ~ not wearing my specs :)

  37. Northern Shade :
    November 11, 2010 at 4:53 pm

    Anna, we’ve had cold nights, but temperatures above freezing during the day, and some of the Campanula are still blooming.

  38. Birgitta :
    November 15, 2010 at 11:02 am

    Lovely harebell. It looks like the one we have near our summerhouse.

  39. Northern Shade :
    November 15, 2010 at 11:56 am

    Birgitta, I enjoy seeing these growing in the wild when I go to the mountains or hiking nearby. I’m not sure why these will flower for longer than the ones in the wild, if it is the variety, or the garden conditions and some deadheading.

  40. SwimRay :
    November 16, 2010 at 10:53 am

    My last hold-out that still looks good well past frost and into winter is calendula. I believe they are so pent up from avoiding summer heat, that when the temperatures fall, they let lose.

  41. Northern Shade :
    November 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    SwimRay, they would blend well with the fall colours, too. Thank goodness for plants that like it cool.

  42. Marie :
    November 17, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Beautiful :)
    I love these blue bells, they are one of my favorites :)
    They grow wild in my neighborhood :)

  43. Northern Shade :
    November 17, 2010 at 5:06 pm

    Marie, I really like these little harebells, too. The -15º C (5º F) temperatures we’ve had this past week have finally finished off the blooms, and the snow of the last few days is covering up the garden.

  44. fer :
    November 25, 2010 at 4:18 am

    They are very pretty! so glad they can take the cold that well.

  45. Northern Shade :
    November 25, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Fer, the rotundifolia are very charming plants. We’ve had a great deal more snow this week, so most of the plants are covered up, which is a good thing since the the temperatures went down to -28º C (-18º F) yesterday, so it will help insulate the perennials.

  46. Diane :
    December 11, 2010 at 5:40 am

    Very robust little guys. We are getting lots of snow in Ontario!

  47. Northern Shade :
    December 11, 2010 at 9:20 am

    Diane, the Campanula are totally covered in snow now. At least it provides good insulation, since we have had lots of frigid temperatures lately. It will be a good test of plant hardiness, and I’m wondering how some of my new perennial additions are doing.

    When the garden is all covered in white, I start to appreciate the tall conifers for their beauty.

  48. waltraud :
    January 5, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Hi, I hope you are well. I wish you a happy new year

    warm greetings


  49. Northern Shade :
    January 5, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Waltraud, thank you, and have a great gardening year for 2011. January is when I really appreciate the evergreens, since most of the garden is buried in the snow.

  50. Laura :
    January 24, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    Hey there, I just wanted to let you know I moved my blog. The Dandelion Wrangler can now be found at I hope to chat with you again through the spring!


  51. Northern Shade :
    January 25, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    Laura, thanks for the heads up on your new address.

  52. Christine :
    February 10, 2011 at 9:33 am

    Your harebells are very pretty! We don’t get such extreme cold temperatures here in South Africa – right now we are battling 40 degrees Centigrade heat, so keeping our plants mulched, watered and cool is the challenge :)

  53. Northern Shade :
    February 10, 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Christine, the snow is doing the mulching for me. :) I really like the ethereal look of the harebells swaying gently in a breeze. Because they are so slender, they can weave between other plants.

  54. Christine :
    February 10, 2011 at 4:42 pm

    I love the look of them too – from your photos. I take it, if they are surviving in the snow, that they would do well in my shaded spots? I would love some of these in my beds, under the trees, interwoven with the other plants. (I love blues …). I’m going to keep a look out and see if we have them here.

  55. Northern Shade :
    February 10, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Christine, they grow wild across many parts of Canada, and are very adaptable. They have a basal clump of leaves close to the ground, and then the slender flower stalks. They do mix well with many other plants.

  56. Shady Gardener :
    March 8, 2011 at 7:20 am

    Hi Northern, We are nearing Spring, here. It’s 34 degrees F today – but that’s okay. The ground is nearly clear of snow… and March – being March – means it’ll snow again. But it won’t last terribly long. Looking forward to some blossoms! How about you??

  57. Northern Shade :
    March 8, 2011 at 7:46 am

    Shady, during the last few weeks our temperatures with the wind chill have been in the – 30’s, with lots of snow still on the ground, so our spring won’t be here for a while. My crocus won’t be as early as last year. You should be seeing your first bulbs soon, and have some cheery pictures to go with them.

  58. Jan@Thanks for today. :
    March 27, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Hi NS…it’s been ‘forever’ since I’ve visited. Please accept my apologies…I somehow almost forgot about your blog! That sounds awful, I know, but there are just so many bloggers out there now and it has all gotten so busy, not to mention you haven’t posted for months! I love your Harebells…and now think I must put some on my list to find! They would be perfect in my woodland shady garden areas! Hope spring isn’t going to take too long to reach you, although from your comment to Shady Gardener, above, I see that it’s been pretty darn cold there! Hang in there;-) Jan

  59. Northern Shade :
    March 27, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    Jan, hi there. I like the harebells in between foliage plants, and also have them next to other Campanula. They pair up well. We still have a lot of snow cover, but the temperatures are warming up, so I am looking forward to the big melt, and the first bulb flowers.

  60. Diane :
    April 10, 2011 at 5:54 am

    Hi there. Happy Spring. Are you going to start your blog up again?

  61. Northern Shade :
    April 10, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    Diane, happy spring. I’m going to start it up, but spring has been very slow here. We still have lots of snow, but there are a few bare patches appearing. I was out of town for a couple of days, and now there are a few Heuchera leaves showing. I was just so happy to see signs of perennials, even if nothing is popping yet.

  62. Shady Gardener :
    April 17, 2011 at 7:28 am

    Hi Northern – I always think of you as my Northern Counterpart! :-)

    I’m missing you. Has Spring been showing itself up your way?

  63. Northern Shade :
    April 17, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Shady Gardener, we started to have a few cleared areas, but our latest snow has covered everything. There haven’t been any blooms or new growth in the garden yet. Spring is delayed this year, and I am still looking forward to getting out in the garden, which I know is under there someplace.

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