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[ American Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis var. montana) | Posted on April 21, 2014 ]

Convallaria montana is, debatably, a native North American lily-of-the-valley species. Its natural range (assuming it is not actually a naturalized introduced species) is a limited area in Georgia, Kentucky, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, where it inhabits montane slopes and woods, in acidic and sandy soils.

The most noticeable feature that distinguishes it from the very commonly-grown European species, Convallaria majalis (which frequently escapes into the wild), is that the midribs on the flower tepals are green, unlike on Convallaria majalis.

Ref. Flora of North America (

Unless your plants were collected from these wild populations as plants or seed, and unless they show the characteristics of this species as noted above, they are most likely Convallaria majalis.

[ Rampion (Campanula rapunculus) | Posted on March 16, 2014 ]

The common name for Campanula rapunculus is "rampion," which is a diminutive of the Latin rapum, turnip. This refers to the thick, carrot-like white root which is edible and eaten raw or cooked.
The plant is a biennial. The entire plant is usually hairless. The basal leaves are oval and pointed, widest in the middle, ~4 cm long on long winged petioles. The leaves arise directly from the top of the thickened root. Flowers are small, 2 - 2.5 cm long, narrowly bell-shaped, divided by 1/3 into pointed lobes; colour is whitish to pale blue; flowers are on short thin pedicels and held in long spikes. Calyx teeth are long (nearly as long as the petals) and very narrow; there are no appendages. The style is almost as long as the corolla, with 3 stigmas.
The natural range covers most of Europe (excluding the extreme north), south and central Russia, Caucasus, Crimea, Turkey, Syria, Iran and North Africa.

Ref.: Campanulas: A Gardener's Guide, Peter Lewis and Margaret Lynch, Timber Press, 1998

This plant is not commonly grown in North America and should not be confused with the introduced invasive, Campanula rapunculoides, which is only superficially similar in name and appearance.

[ St. John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum) | Posted on March 1, 2014 ]

Has naturalized to become an invasive weed in many areas, spreading by rhizomes and seed.

[ Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) | Posted on February 22, 2014 ]

Caution: This species is extremely invasive in North America!

Campanula rapunculoides is native to most of Europe, Caucasus, Iran, Central Asia and Siberia. It has attractive flower spikes, and is extremely tough and hardy. Unfortunately, it is also extremely invasive, rapidly spreading throughout the garden and lawn, and worse, also escaping into the wild in many areas. Most people find it very difficult to get rid of, once its invasive habit makes itself known.

It spreads rampantly by thin, delicate roots that arise from thick, white, vertically-penetrating, carrot-like roots that are very deep in the soil. Eradication efforts will be useless unless very deep digging is done to remove the white basal roots.

Its relentless spread is also aided by the large amount of seed produced. The seed is very lightweight and so can be windblown large distances.

The basal leaves are heart-shaped, with long points, and are held on long stalks; these wither as the stems elongate. The stem leaves are broadly lance-shaped (oblanceolate) and stalkless. All leaves are prominently veined on the underside and lightly toothed.
The blue-purple flowers occur on an upright spike (raceme), and are held in drooping fashion, or horizontally. Calyx lobes are lance-shaped and are strongly reflexed at flowering; there are no appendages. The style is in 3 parts, and is the same length as the corolla. Corolla lobes are divided to one-third, and are pointed and slightly reflexed.

This species may be allowed entrance to the garden under false pretences. It is often passed around as plants and seeds in the guise of various Adenophora species, and as other Campanula species. Beware!

Note: This species is distinctly different from Rampion (Campanula rapunculus) - it is only the name that is slightly similar.

Ref. for plant description details and native range: Campanulas: A Gardener's Guide, Peter Lewis and Margaret Lynch, 1998, Timber Press.

[ Rainier Harebell (Campanula raineri) | Posted on February 17, 2014 ]

Campanula raineri is native to the Bergamo region in northern Italy and into Switzerland where it inhabits limestone cliffs. The rootstock is woody and it spreads by fine runners. It forms tufts of small, gray, rhomboidal, finely dentate leaves that are stemless or virtually so. Flowering stems are 5 - 7.5 cm tall with narrow, crenate (with rounded teeth)-to-serrate leaves. The flowers are large and mostly solitary and are held upturned; shape varies from campanulate (bell-shaped) with reflexed rounded lobes, to infundibular (funnel-shaped) with pointed lobes; colour ranges from dark to lavender blue, with a dark blue (nearly black) spot at the base of the petals. The plant is deciduous. Grows well in cultivation in limestone substrates and screes.

Ref.: Dwarf Campanulas and Associated Genera, Graham Nicholls, 2006; Alpine Plants of Europe - A Gardener's Guide, Jim Jermyn, 2005.

Considered a very choice alpine, yet not necessarily difficult to grow. Photos of well-grown plants show flowers that appear virtually stemless.

[ Alpine Bellflower (Campanula alpestris) | Posted on February 17, 2014 ]

Campanula alpestris is native to the southwestern European Alps in screes and rock crevices at about 1400 to 2800 m elevation; substrates vary in lithology from mica schists and granites to limestone formations. It forms basal rosettes and mats of linear-to-lanceolate, entire, hairy gray leaves. Flower stems are 3 - 10 cm and bear outsized, 3 - 4.5 cm, cylindrical and campanulate bells that are held horizontally; flowers are usually single (occasionally double) and range from slate blue and lavender to purple. It is stoloniferous; not always easy in cultivation.

Ref.: Dwarf Campanulas and Associated Genera, Graham Nicholls, 2006; Alpine Plants of Europe - A Gardener's Guide, Jim Jermyn, 2005.

[ Castle Crag's Bellflower (Campanula shetleri) | Posted on February 17, 2014 ]

Campanula shetleri is native to California in the Mount Shasta and Trinity Mountains areas, where it is usually found in shaded crevices in north-facing granite cliffs. Leaves are spatulate and serrated and form dense, low rosettes. The woody rhizomes prefer a cool root run. Flowering stems are 5 - 7 cm tall; flowers are small, bowl-shaped and range from white to gray blue to deep blue. It is small enough to be ideally suited to a trough.

Ref.: Dwarf Campanulas and Associated Genera, Graham Nicholls, 2006.

Can be challenging to grow, particularly in areas of winter wet.

[ Campanula (Campanula saxifraga) | Posted on February 17, 2014 ]

Campanula saxifraga is native to the northern Caucasus region, where it grows in rocky substrates in the sub-alpine to alpine zones. The root is thick and branched. Leaves are up to 7 cm long, occur in a basal rosette, and are glabrous and lanceolate-to-spatulate. Flower stems are erect and from 5 - 10 cm with linear-lanceolate, sessile leaves to 3 cm. Flowers are campanulate, 2-3 cm long, deep purple-blue, pendant to erect, with a white or light blue base. The plant is deciduous.

Ref.: Dwarf Campanulas and Associated Genera, Graham Nicholls, 2006.

This is an easy alpine for the rock garden, or for the front of the border.

[ Stonecress (Aethionema grandiflorum) | Posted on February 2, 2014 ]

Very long-lived and carefree with adequate drainage. As with many alpines, full sun conditions are preferred.

[ Silverberry (Elaeagnus commutata) | Posted on January 30, 2014 ]

Due to its suckering habit, wolf willow is best enjoyed in the wild or in very informal plantings. The small, yellow tubular flowers have a heavy, sweet fragrance that characterizes early summer on the prairies.

[ Sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) | Posted on January 29, 2014 ]

Has escaped into the wild in the foothills and lower montane zone in western Alberta from forage crop plantings.
Beautiful flowers.

[ Scarlet Locoweed (Astragalus coccineus) | Posted on January 26, 2014 ]

Very easy to germinate but very hard to grow!

[ Thyme (Thymus serpyllum 'Minor') | Posted on January 26, 2014 ]

An excellent choice for filling gaps between stepping stones.
Like most thyme species and cultivars, it is too vigorous for all but the largest rock gardens.

[ Highway Iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis) | Posted on January 26, 2014 ]

Can be invasive where hardy, and has naturalized in Florida and California.
Is considered an invasive weed in California.

[ Double Flowered Greater Celandine (Chelidonium majus 'Flore Pleno') | Posted on January 3, 2014 ]

A notable characteristic of Chelidonium majus is the orange sap that exudes from broken stems, roots, or leaves. This species is known for heavy self-seeding, but its ability to thrive in dry shade can make it very useful in the garden.

[ Tanacetum niveum 'Jackpot' | Posted on December 9, 2012 ]

Very showy; individual plants are rather short-lived for me but it self sows readily.

[ Rock Soapwort (Saponaria ocymoides) | Posted on December 9, 2012 ]

A beautiful alpine species that is easy to grow and requires no special conditions. Its vigorous spreading habit and tendency to seed around excessively make it undesirable for the rock garden.

[ Dwarf Hardy Gloxinia (Incarvillea mairei) | Posted on December 9, 2012 ]

Hardy and long-lived in zone 3, Calgary, AB.; from seed; germinates at room temperature without pretreatment.

[ Incarvillea (Incarvillea zhongdianensis) | Posted on December 9, 2012 ]

Hardy and long-lived in zone 3, Calgary, AB; from seed; germinates at room temperature without pretreatment.

[ Hardy Gloxinia (Incarvillea delavayi) | Posted on December 9, 2012 ]

I've found this species to be hardy but short-lived here in zone 3 Calgary, Alberta.

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