Campanula zoysii
: "Daughter of the Slovene Mountains"
by Kristl Walek

Campanula zoysii is one of the gems in the large genus of Bellflowers. It is frequently seen on the British flower-show benches with Farrer and Forrest Medals attached to it because there are few things closer to heaven than this plant, grown to perfection, in full bloom, overflowing a pot. This is particularly true when the species is believed to be "challenging" in some circles.

But what really takes my breath away is seeing this treasure entirely uncoddled or fussed over sitting prettier-than-pretty in the open garden in our area. Winter lows of –35°C (even –40°C) and summer humidity do not appear to be a problem.

Named after the botanist Karel Zois (1756-1799), Zois Bellflower is endemic to the mountains of Slovenia and lives in limestone crevices of the high-mountain belt of the Julian and Kamnik Alps. It can also be found in the Italian and Austrian Alps and is thought to belong to a group of ancient plants dating as far back as the Tertiary period (26-66 million years ago). Of the 3,000 species of plants growing in Slovenia (70 of them endemic), this bellflower is held in particularly high regard, thought to be the symbol of the Slovenian Alps and is referred to as "the daughter of the Slovene mountains."

Campanula zoysii is unique in the genus; while other species exhibit open bell-shaped flowers, the mouth of its narrow bell constricts and ends in a five-pointed star. Notwithstanding the (utterly charming) pinched flowers, insects do manage to find their way inside and viable seed is produced. This requires cold treatment in order to germinate. Seedlings will require 2 years to grow up and flower.

It’s growing habit is low (5-7cm) and cushion-forming; ever too slowly creeping outwards (I imagine over many years). Bloom is in June, over a 3-4 week period one hopes will never end. The colour of the flowers is a lovely shade of pale sky-blue dipped in lavender.

And the secret to success? Grow it as though it were at home: on limestone, in very gritty soil in a narrow crevice, high and dry.