Few flowers can ring in the true glory of summer like the delicate, bell-shaped blooms of the campanulaceae family. Commonly known as bellflowers, these elegant plants are perennial, easy to grow and work well in any part of the garden.
Their colours are mostly blue with a scattering of white and the occasional pink. The vision of china blue bells swaying among the borders or fairy thimble heads nodding among rock crevices is captivating in summer.
Borders are the main planting ground for campanulas. The large bells of both blue and white forms of campanula persicifolia, displayed on waist high stems contrast perfectly with the blooms of old roses. Campanula pulla is an alpine variety that has deep purple-blue flowers. It is one of the finest plants for an alpine bed, where it will smother its low mats of foliage with colour for several weeks in summer. Campanula garganica ‘Dickson’s Gold’ is another alpine bellflower with beautiful golden foliage that perfectly complements its starry blue flowers. The blooms appear just above the leaves in late summer. This variety will thrive when tucked into an alpine trough or wedged in between gaps in paving stones or on walls. Campanula lactifolia ‘Loddon Anna’ produces soft lilac-pink flowers.
Campanulas are all reliable perennials and require no special care. It is worthwhile splitting up the clumps every few years and putting the strong pieces back into enriched soil.
Delphiniums are another group of herbaceous plants is full flower now. They produce tall spikes in a range of colours that cover all three primary colours, although when we think of delphiniums we tend to think of blue. Delphiniums will grow in any fertile, well-drained soil in full sun, with shelter from strong winds. The trouble with most delphiniums is that they grow tall and so need staking. Water plants freely and apply a balanced liquid fertiliser every two to three weeks. An exciting development in delphiniums is the production of dwarf compact varieties, such as ‘Fantasia’ mix delphiniums . These grow only 2 feet tall and do not require staking and are just as showy as their taller cousins. If the flowers are removed before they set seed and the plants are given a good feed of fertiliser, they may produce more flowers later in the year.
Jobs for the week
.I have sown seeds of spinach recently directly into the ground. Spinach is a fast growing plant with highly nutritious leaves that can be eaten lightly cooked or raw in salads. The seeds are sown thinly in drills half an inch deep. Thin the seedlings to 2 inches apart when large enough to handle. Spinach likes a rich, moist, well-drained soil. ‘Scenic’ is an F1 hybrid that produces a heavy crop of dark-green leaves. The leaves can be harvested as required by removing a number of leaves from each plant.
Many flowering shrubs, such as buddleja, potentilla, deutzia, lavender and philadelphus, root easily from softwood cuttings taken at this time of the year. Take cuttings early in the morning from stems that grew this year.
Sow seeds of biennials such as wallflowers and sweet Williams to flower next year.
Remove faded flowers on lupins, delphiniums and other perennials. Cut them down to just above a new shoot and feed them with a liquid fertiliser. They may produce a second crop of flowers later in the year.
Plant out celery seedlings sown in the greenhouse, plant the self –blanching varieties in blocks 9 inches apart so that the plants shade each other. Seedlings of leeks grown in the greenhouse can be planted out now in rows.
Continue to sow seeds of lettuce to provide a continuous supply of tender fresh leaves. If the weather is dry water the vegetable garden in the evening. Feed roses with a rose fertiliser and water in if the weather is dry.