Look what popped up through my dwarf oakleaf hydrangea—‘Blue-eyed Blonde’ peach-leaf bellflower (Campanula persicifolia ‘Blue-eyed Blonde’, Zone 5, possibly Zone 4)—a nice surprise. I’d forgotten it was there; the hydrangea must have extended its branches right over it. The pretty flowers are rich violet-blue, and the basal foliage rosette is vivid yellow—but only when grown in full sun. I didn’t have a spot with sufficient hours of direct sunlight, and so the leaves are greenish-yellow (a colour that makes them look anemic). It’s not unusual for plants with yellow leaves to be more green in part shade, like the golden mock orange (Philadelphus coronarius ‘Aureus’, Zone 5) that I also once grew in low light. It really never looked golden at all. But I do have ‘August Moon’ and ‘Rosedale Golden Goose’ yellow hostas in light shade, and they are quite chartreuse-yellow. I know they would be pure yellow in sun, but they’re looking good right now in shade.
But back to bellflowers. They are such accommodating perennials in all light, sending up 18-inch (45-cm) flowering stems loaded with wide lavender-blue or white bells, lovely for cutting. The plants bloom for at least six weeks. I have a small group of the species (Campanula persicifolia, Zone 3) with lavender-blue bells, and another clump with white bells (C. p. var. alba, Zone 3). These seed around a bit, but are most welcome wherever they turn up.
I’d like to acquire more and different bellflowers, and will look for ‘Telham Beauty’ (Zone 4), with three-inch (8-cm) wide bells in soft powder blue. Some of the flowers face slightly downward, while others face outward. Another on my list is ‘Chettle Charm’ (Zone 3), with flower stems growing 30 to 36 inches (75 to 90 cm) tall, and large milky white blooms suffused with violet-blue edges. These tall plants make a splendid show from June through July; removing the spent flowers will increase the length of blooming. There are also compact bellflowers with outward-facing blossoms for small spaces, such as ‘Takion Blue’ and ‘Takion White’ (both Zone 3), growing 16 to 20 inches (40 to 50 cm) tall.
Of course, hybridizers couldn’t resist creating double bellflowers. ‘La Belle’ (Zone 3), 24 inches (60 cm) tall, has flowers with so many lavender-blue petals, they hardly look like bells at all. There is also ‘Powder Puff’ (Zone 4), a white double bellflower. Both are said to be an improvement on older double forms, with larger flowers and stronger stems. But to my liking, I prefer bellflowers single and unimproved.