With its large, bell-shaped flowers, the Canterbury bells is a real enrichment for natural plantations and cottage gardens.
Profile of Canterbury bells:
Scientific name: Campanula medium
Plant family: bellflower family (Campanulaceae)
Other names: –
Sowing time: May to July
Planting time: May to July
Flowering period: June to July
Location: sunny to partially shady
Soil quality: sandy to loamy, nutrient rich, humus rich
These information are for temperate climate!
Use in: flower beds, flower bouquets, group planting, planters, overgrowing, borders, cottage garden, flower garden, Mediterranean garden, natural garden, rose garden, potted garden
Winter hardiness: hardy, USDA Plant Hardiness Zones: 6 (-20 °C / -5 °F)
Bee and insect friendly: Yes
Plant characteristics and classification of Canterbury bells
Plant order, origin and occurrence of Canterbury bells
The Canterbury bells (Campanula medium) originally comes from Southern Europe, but has been native to our gardens since the 16th century. It has always been most frequently found in cottage gardens. Campanula medium belongs to the bellflower family (Campanulaceae).
Characteristics of Canterbury bells
Canterbury bells reach a growth height of 50 to 90 centimeters (20 to 36 in). The stems are very stable and branch towards the upper end. The vigorous, biennial plant grows pyramid-shaped.
The lingulate leaves of the Canterbury bells are rough haired and felted. A distinction is made between the rosette-like, stalked basal leaves and the stem leaves, which sit directly on the high stems. The leaves grow to 12 to 15 centimeters (5 to 6 in) long. In the first year the leaf rosette forms, in the second year the upright inflorescence.
The large, bell-shaped flowers of Canterbury bells sit close to the stem of the plant. The flowering period lasts from June to July. The plant owes both its trivial name and its botanical name to the bell-shaped flowers: “campanula” is the Latin word for “little bell”. The flowers appear in a variety of colors from blue and violet to white and pink. The Canterbury bells is odorless and therefore very suitable for gardens of people allergic to pollen.
The Canterbury bells forms pore capsules typical of the genus, a rare form of capsule fruits. The seeds ripen in them.
Canterbury bells – cultivation and care
The ideal location for the plant is a sunny to partially shady spot in the garden. The place should be somewhat sheltered from the wind, as the delicate stems of the plantlets sway dangerously in the wind in gusts of wind and threaten to break off.
The soil at the planting site should ideally be nutritious, fresh and loose. Good soil permeability is particularly important, as Campanula medium does not tolerate waterlogging. To improve your garden soil, you can mix it with sand before planting Canterbury bells.
Planting / Sowing Canterbury bells
Sowing of the Canterbury bells is possible from May to July in a prepared seedbed or cold frame. The temperature should be between 15 and 18 °C / 59 and 64 °F. The seed must always be kept moist, it is best to cover it with a fleece. The seedlings are separated at a distance of about 10 centimeters (4 in) when they are two to three weeks old. In August the young plants can then be placed in the bed at a distance of 20 to 30 centimeters (8 to 12 in).
The plants should be watered regularly. To determine the correct watering intervals, the soil around the plants should be felt. If the soil is almost dry and only slightly moist, watering should be carried out. Certainly, the location and the subsoil also play a decisive role in determining the correct watering times.
- Avoid waterlogging at all costs, otherwise root rot will form
- In sunny locations, water more than the soil dries out faster
In a nutrient-rich soil, the undemanding Canterbury bells does not need to be fertilized at all. If the soil is poor, regular light organic fertilization is recommended.
- Compost is very well suited as fertilizer.
- Alternatively some horn shavings can be scattered in spring.
- Manure is also good as fertilizer
The plant produces a flower in the second year after sowing, forms seeds and then dies. The seeds can be used to cultivate the next generation. If the plant is sown directly in the garden, it is best to plant several plants close together, as each Canterbury bells only forms one flower style in flowering time, thus guaranteeing a colorful mixture and jealous looks from the neighbor.
- Canterbury bells are light germinators, which means that the seed must not be covered with soil.
- The sowing is done at about 20 °C / 68 °F in the garden.
- Special potting compost is recommended for a fast growth process.
- The young plants must be protected from snails. Here, sowing in clay pots is recommended.
- The germination period is between 30 and 90 days.
- The use of a foil is recommended.
- The location should be bright and sunny to partially shady.
- The soil should be kept moist, but not wet.
- The plants can be propagated in the house.
- If the shoots are a few centimeters high, they should be pricked.
- After pricking, a minimum distance of 8 cm (3.2 in) between the plants should be kept.
- In late summer the plants are planted out in the garden at a distance of at least 15-20 cm (6 to 8 in).
Diseases and pests
The Canterbury bells can be attacked by aphids. Aphids feel particularly well in monocultures. The gardener can minimize the danger of pest infestation to a large extent by placing the plants between other plants to form mixed cultures. If the soil is kept too moist over a longer period of time, root rot can develop, which is evident from the fact that individual leaves first wilt and die before the entire plant finally dies. Various types of bellflowers are also repeatedly attacked by rust fungi. Attention: The young plants are a special delicacy on the snails’ menu!
- Ladybugs and the larvae of many flies are natural enemies of aphids.
- Avoid waterlogging.
If the soil is very moist, stop watering completely, replace the moist soil if possible with dry, fresh soil.
- Snail pellets can be spread against snails from spring onwards.
- Alternatively, plant the Canterbury bells in tubs or collect the snails by hand several times a day.
The Canterbury bells is a biennial plant. It must therefore survive one winter. The plant has a certain frost resistance, but especially icy winters with longer cold periods are too much even for the robust flower.
- In winter, water very little, because damp soil demands even more from the plant due to the danger of frost in the soil.
- The leaf rosettes of the young plants can be carefully covered with some brushwood or fine bark mulch.
Use in the garden
With its rich blossom, Canterbury bells is perfectly suited to fill gaps in beds and borders. It is also a popular cut flower, especially beautiful are bouquets of different colored flowers. The biennial plant fits very well in cottage gardens as well as near-natural plantings. Suitable planting partners are, for example, Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale), garden pyrethrum (Chrysanthemum coccineum), common sage (Salvia officinalis), phlox or also roses. Also, a combination with other bellflower species in different colors is very attractive. In addition, Campanula medium is a valuable bee pasture because it produces a lot of nectar. In a pot it beautifies every terrace and balcony.
Canterbury bells are available in the trade in a variety of blends with single and double flowers. The variety ‘Calycanthema’ is available in blue, pink and white. It is particularly attractive because it forms double bells.
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