The joy of growing plants from seed is that you are never quite sure what you will get. Apart from when you buy F1 hybrids you have to expect some variability in the offspring. That variability can be extreme if the growers of the seed don’t bother too much about keeping their stock true-to-type. This is the problem with cheap seeds of old varieties. Even so, I was expecting more of my Canterbury bells – Campanula medium. I have not grown them for many years and I wanted to grow the strange ‘cup and saucer’ type, more properly called ‘Calycanthema’.
Campanula medium is a European species that is a biennial. In the first year it makes a rather undistinguished rosette of narrow leaves. In the second spring it sends up a main spike and many secondary stems, set with huge flowers. Though purple/blue is the common colour they can also be pink or white. It is a typical cottage-garden flower and very old fashioned.
Unfortunately my seed has been a bit of a washout. There was one white plant and all the rest were a very similar, dark blue. Even worse, not one plant had the flowers I was expecting. They should have produced flowers where the calyx is petaloid and makes a large, flat ring – just like a saucer – against which the large, goblet-shaped blooms sit. Two plants have produced flowers where the calyx is petaloid but split into sections. I have a feeling that ‘Calycanthema’ is in the worst possible taste and the flowers are truly ugly rather than lovely and my ‘Greek’ version, which looks as though the saucers have been thrown against the fireplace, are even worse. Perhaps I am secretly pleased that most of the plants have natural flowers. The bees certainly like to bumble around in them. Apparently the plant is often grown by beekeepers because the copious nectar makes a good honey.
At least I won’t have to look at my ugly flowers for too long because, being biennials, the plants will be pulled up in a week or so when the flowers have finished.