Edraianthus pumilio
by Kristl Walek

Edraianthus (Grassy Bells) is a small genus in the Campanulaceae, or Bellflower family. The plants are especially well represented in the Balkans, where eight of the species are endemic, but their range extends eastward to the Caucasus. The genus name is from the Greek hedraios (sitting), and anthos, (a flower).

The bluish-purple or white bellflowers in early- to mid-summer are usually carried in terminal clusters above grassy foliage, accounting for the common name. In many of the species the flowers are clustered at the tips of procumbent leafy branches lying out from the crown like the spokes of a wheel.
Edraianthus pumilio, from Western Yugoslavia and the gem of the genus, is very different. It forms a tight, compact cushion of narrow, silvery foliage, literally covered in June by solitary (not clustered), almost stem-less, up-facing, rich violet-blue bells. White forms can occur.

This small gem, from 1-3cm tall, occurs in the wild on limestone cliffs and crevices fully exposed to the extremes of both summer sun and winter cold. However, in our eastern Canadian gardens we should plant it somewhat carefully. While well-drained conditions are essential, as well as plenty of sun, it can tend to brown and rot in our prolonged muggy summers. An open, north-facing slope or crevice on limestone is probably best.

Germination is not entirely straightforward and takes some patience. Low temperatures of about 5°C and some months of waiting will be required. The natural low germination rate of the species is well documented, but even one plant in the garden is well worth the effort.