The name for Canterbury bells comes from campanula meaning "little bells," an accurate term, since the flowers are bell-shaped. Although biennials, they can be grown to bloom the first year by sowing seeds indoors early.
Description of Canterbury bells: Plants grow 21/2 feet to 4 feet tall, with roughly the top two-thirds covered with pink, rose, lavender, blue, or white flowers. The plant shape is pyramidal and leaves are long and narrow.
Growing Canterbury bells: Canterbury bells need rich, moist, well-drained soil and full sun. Although partial shade is tolerated, stems may grow weak under these conditions. Planting a group together will help plants support each other without staking, although in windy locations stakes may be needed. Plant 8 to 12 inches apart.
Propagating Canterbury bells: By seed. To grow for first year bloom, sow seeds 10 weeks prior to the last frost. Do not cover the seeds, since they require light to germinate. Germination time is 6 to 12 days at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. To grow as a biennial, sow seeds outdoors in July or August. The small plants will bloom late the next spring.
Uses for Canterbury bells: Canterbury bells are ideal for the informal, cottage garden look, where they can be intermixed with a variety of other plants. They're also useful for planting at the center of island beds, where they're viewed from all sides.
Related species of Centerbury bells: Campanula isophylla, a tender perennial, is a species with a many-branched trailing habit, smothered in powder-blue or white flowers. Stella is available both in blue and white. Campanula ramosissima grows 6 inches to 1 foot high. Its most prevalent form has violet-blue flowers, but also appears in pink, rose, and lavender.
Related varieties of Canterbury bells: Campanula medium calyconthema, called "cup and saucer," has double bells, one inside the other. The Champion series of white, pink, and blue, blooms freely without a cold treatment.
Scientific name of Canterbury Bells: Campanula medium