Canterbury Bells – A Little History and Some Growing Instructions
Canterbury Bells belong to the Campanula family, a huge family of flowers (more than 300) that all share the common characteristic from which they derive their Latin name. Campanula comes from the Latin, meaning tower of bells. So many of the campanulas are desirable garden flowers, that this species has long been a part of gardening history. The species of campanula discussed here is Campanulaceae medium – the Canterbury Bells. Canterbury Bells are native to Southern Europe and were introduced to British gardeners in 1597. In the 16th and 17th centuries Canterbury Bells were called Coventry Bells, but by the 1800’s they had assumed the name, Canterbury Bells.
Joseph Breck in his 1851 book, The Flower Garden, states that Canterbury Bells were also known as Venus’ Looking Glass. He further notes that the stems of the plant bear a profusion of blue, rose, purple, red, or white inflated trumpets. The plant makes an excellent container plant and the flower stalks are excellent cut flowers.
Canterbury Bells are biennial, blooming most prolifically in the second year and rarely blooming in the first year. The plants need full sun, good moisture and will do well with a generous amendment of bone meal to the soil around them. Seeds should be started outside when the danger of frost has passed. Cover the seeds with about 1/2 inch of soil. The seeds will germinate in less than 2 weeks. The plants are most visually pleasing when planted in groups of at least three, but individual plants need to be separated from each other by at least 12 inches. The plants transplant well, so dig up thinnings carefully and place in other parts of the garden. These plants make excellent container plants blooming from early summer until the fall.