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Perfect For The Prairies

The campanula plant family is a huge one made up of thousands of different plants, many of which we use in our gardens. Many campanulas are tough and versatile, just the kind of plants Prairie gardeners are looking for to withstand the harsh climate and sometimes benign neglect that our rural gardens must endure. One member of the campanula family is a large, statuesque and quite dramatic plant called campanula “Brantwood.”

I have had a specimen of Brantwood campanula for years and it does not receive much tender loving care in my garden but it never fails to bloom profusely in early July. I have it squeezed into a small cutting garden that I use to grow plants that I harvest for exhibition in fairs and horticultural shows. This flower bed is located behind the garden shed so that it isn’t in public view since a cutting garden can become pretty bedraggled because its flowers and foliage are constantly being harvested. The plants receive part sun, and as a result, some of the plants that would like more sun, such as the Brantwood campanula, get a bit leggy.

However, my plant puts on a great display of bloom each year, usually coming into bloom in early July. It is a tall plant reaching heights of a metre and a half. The clump produces tall flower spikes similar to a delphinium in growth habit. The individual blooms are dark purple, cup shaped and four to five cm long. The stalks are very sturdy and they never break off after a rain or strong wind. I do stake the plant, however, and tie it to the stakes simply to keep the stalks upright and straight since I want them for exhibition.

Campanulas are tough plants that will endure dry spells as well as wet periods. They do like lots of sun but if they have less sun than they would prefer, they simply adapt and grow a little taller and less compact and perhaps produce a few less blooms. I have never seen evidence of insect problems on my campanula.

One reason that I have my Brantwood campanula in my cutting garden and not in one of my flower borders, other than the fact that I harvest most of the flower spikes for show, is that after the plant blooms, which is toward the end of July, it is not the most attractive plant in the garden. Even with the dead flower stalks removed, the clump is not attractive; it is simply made up of cut-off stalks and some leaves – much like a delphinium after it has been cut back after blooming.

Brantwood campanula would be a good candidate for the back of a large flower border that would accommodate such a large plant. In such a location, the plants in front of it would camouflage the plant later in the growing season when it becomes rather unsightly after it has finished blooming. It is a plant well worth including in the landscape because when it is in bloom, it is absolutely stunning.

– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba

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