Life of the party

Campanula lactiflora (upper right) in the North Garden horseshoe in late JuneSome plants provide entertainment for the whole season and others just don’t and I sometimes have to try very hard to remember why we give clunkers space in the gardens. Campanula lactiflora or Milky bellflower is one of those plants – winner of the Most Likely to Leave the Party Early superlative. Campanula lactiflora at the end of AugustWe have a sizable clump in a prominent spot right at the corner of the North Garden horseshoe and there’s no doubt that its reaching french-blue blooms get plenty of comments and compliments at the end of June and a little bit into July. But as soon as the flowers shrivel and turn brown from the top down, the foliage starts to go south too and that’s why I think it’s a clunker – and a party pooper.

Last week Gail and I shared our annual indecision over whether it’s better to leave the dried and skrunky sticks so at least it looks like there was a there there versus cutting it back, leaving a giant hole. We always opt to cut it back. Baptisia v. Campanula - there's no comparisonWhat would you do? Right next to that clump, in party-on contrast, is another enormous clump of a plant that also only blooms for a nanosecond in June but hangs out in the garden telling jokes all season long. Is there anything better than Baptisia australis (False indigo) with its sturdy ever-blue foliage and dramatic black seed pods? Actually, I’m seriously asking because I would love to take out the campanula and replace it with something else that will stay to the end in bloom and out. What can you recommend that’s around 3-4′ tall with a blue or yellow flower that blooms in late June and has good looking foliage from May to at least October — besides amsonia?

The North Garden horseshoe in late Junea North Garden corner - campanula and baptisia duke it out for best in the backrow

I think there must be a place for the introverted campanula. I don’t want to rule it out entirely because the blooms are such a sublime color. But it’s the sort of plant that requires careful placement to ensure that it’s completely hidden by something else by the middle of July. (Unfortunately ours is not only not hidden but fronted by an equally disastrous and hole producing blighted peony…) But if there’s another plant in the world with extrovert virtues that include a long season of interest like baptisia (and amsonia), I’d trade the campanula (and the peony) for it in a nanosecond.

Who’s the life of the party in your garden? Do you have any poopers?

3 thoughts on “Life of the party

  1. Hmm…Blue Paradise Phlox is blue and that height, but I don’t know if it would bloom in June. Veronicastrum virginicum would fit the bill, but again, the bloom time is off. My personal vote is that you stick a tuteur back in there and crow a blue clematis on it. Also, have you ever considered sticking something back in there with purple or black leaves like Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace.’ The pink flowers would complement the Ballerina roses beautifully and add contrast and depth back there.

    My poopers in the garden are irises. They look great until after they bloom and then they look ratty and miserable. I will probably replace them with reblooming irises to get more out of them, but it seems odd to have irises blooming in late Sept.

    Susan, One of our volunteers brought in a blue flower from a new Phlox ‘David’ and that was certainly tempting though we’re planning on taking out all of the straight white Davids for being too horsey. I wouldn’t mind the late timing of the bloom in that corner… And Veronicastrum goes south for us right about the same time as the campanula – it stays pretty for you? I also like the tuteur idea and adore Sambucus nigra – for other gardens (my own in particular)! And I haven’t heard of reblooming iris – weird! -kris

  2. Here’s a thought. Euphorbia longifolia Amjilassa. It is a fantastic plant and sounds perfect for Blithewold. Check it out online. I got mine from Sean Conway awhile ago. Gets better every year. 4; tall, brilliant chartreuse flowers (bracts) and great foliage. Even when the flowering is finished, the seed heads are lovely. Thompson & Morgan has seeds. Go for it!

    Ginny, I love this idea especially if the flowers are truly chartreuse! I’ve read some other descriptions though that say “chrome yellow” and that scares me a little… Do you have any pictures of yours? -kris

  3. Hm, I was going to say Amsonia. It’s paired with Bapisia at Plantations and looks great. The only interesting tall yellow flower I can think of is Weld, Reseda luteola, but it’s a biennial and won’t fill out your space yearly. That blue/chartreuse bed gets me every time!

    Lynn, Amsonia is what comes to my mind first too, but we have one already pretty close to that spot. – Of course we could use a few more in that garden, come to think of it…! Reseda luteola looks like an interesting plant – I’m not familiar with it though we’ve tried Minonette. -kris

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