The plants that we call Canterbury Bells are usually the species ‘Campanula medium’ and these are only one of the many species in the genus. Common in gardens from Melbourne to Sydney they are widely treated as a biennial, although in Australia they will actually reseed and are treated as a perennial as they seem to keep growing (our climate is warmer than that of the UK). They will flower more prolificly if renewed avery 2 – 3 years, however in our garden they just keep going.
They flower from late spring through summer and with so many cultivars around the names of Canterbury Bells become a little meaningless however, Campanula medium ‘Calycanthema’ is one well known variety.
So why the common name, simply the bell shaped flowers. And why the Canterbury part, well that is because they were named after the Bells of Canterbury Cathedral.
These are a favourite old fashioned flower, used widely in cottage gardens. Usually planted in autumn to winter and then they will flower the next season. Colour range from pastel whites and blues to pinks.
As a biennial they will flower in the second season, however they can last longer in the Australian climate as they self seed as well.
Long flowering and requiring little care other than being cut back after flowering seeds can be sown in winter in a greenhouse or indoors, and cuttings can be taken in spring.
Lets not get confused here as all campanula are not Canterbury Bells, we are looking at Campanula medium, this is the species with classic bell like flowers.
These are tall growing plants to over 1m, although they grow well in full sun, in the hot Australian summer Canterbury Bells often better with some protection from the hot afternoon sun. Although they are not really a moisture hungry plant they will do a little better in a humus rich moist soil. Keep well fertilized for best results.
In Australia, seeds are often the best solution although seedlings are available in good nurseries.
- In Australia these are biennials, they take two years to flower and then will self seed. Plants will reach around 1m in height and really they are easy care.
- Plant in spring, as early as possible when the soil warms up a little. They do need sun but will appreciate a little shade in the hot afternoons in our climate.
- Keep moist until established, after this they seem to be reasonably hardy.
- Fertilize with a general purpose fertilizer.
- Plants can be deadheaded to encourage a second flush of flowers.
- Mulch around plants to maintain a cool root run.
Although many Campanula species are sold, it is Campanula medium that are what we are after here, they flower from spring through to autumn and Canterbury bells are well worth the effort.
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