Balloon or Bells in the garden

Years ago I was at my Mother’s home weeding her garden. She could no long care for her plants and yard – age and Parkinson’s had taken its toll. Which meant my sister and I would show up every 6 weeks or so and weed, clean, cook and spend time just chatting with her. (We both lived 8 hours and one state away from her home in Iowa.)

IMG_0038.jpgAs she sat in the shade I worked my way through the weeds looking for the plants and flowers I knew she had placed here years before. Her garden was lovely but not in any traditional way. She was a lady of color and chaos.

It was important to her to have lots of color and lots of plants. She did not plant by design. She gathered plants she liked and found a hole where they might fit. This kind of garden made for wild colors, interesting mix and matches of plants and also made it hell to weed.  (This photo from 2008 is after much weeding and clearing with lots of mulch to help keep the weeds at bay.)

I was weeding the garden beds that bordered the wall of her garage. I finished the side with the climbing roses, barberry bush and Queen Ann’s Lace and the remains of spring tulips and daffodils lay scattered as well. Happy to be passed the thorn section I slide into the shade to find another bed full of weeds. My mothers advise here was “watch out for the balloon don’t pull them out.”

balloons.JPGI looked up at her and wondered what disconnect was going on in her mind now. How had she jumped from talking about flowers and gardens to parties and balloons? Shaking my head and returning to my task I realized I was the crazy one. There before me hidden in the weeds were little purple and blue balloons. I carefully pulled and cleared the overgrowth to find a few of these balloon had opened up into a beautiful little star. She was right. I needed to be careful not to pull out the balloons.

I can only smile now when I think about those days working in the Iowa heat finding the gems she had hidden in her garden. Some of those gems are now in my garden. I have carried forward the Weigela bush, the roses, Spiderwort and of course the Balloon flowers.

The Balloon flower, also has been called the Bell flower. It come from Asia. It is Balloon flower 1.JPGPlatycodon grandiflorus, member of the campanula family.  It can have purple, blue, white or pink flowers and is hardy to USDA from zone 3 to 8. This plant tolerates both cold and scorching summer heat. It loves full sun but mine are doing well in a mixed sun/shade garden bed. It is super easy grow and spreads slowly each year. If you deadhead the flowers during the growing season they will continue to bloom into the early fall.

It is July 3rd of a cold and wet growing season here in Minnesota but the balloons are ready to open for the 4th of July. They are having a holiday party all on their own in my garden.

If you look closely you can see the green balloons growing along side the stars flowers. These balloons with slowly turn pale blue and then deep blue to purple before they spring open one morning to share their star shape with us.

2 flowers and green ballonns.JPG


Happy 4th and here is to sun, flowers and families!





About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
This entry was posted in gardens, Reflection and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Balloon or Bells in the garden

  1. marilynyung says:

    Cool flowers! Love the balloons… they look very delicate. Gorgeous blue! Our soil in the Ozark Mountains is so acidic and rocky that flowers are a luxury — for us, anyway — due to the expense they require to keep growing. (We also refused to take out the cedars when we built our house and now we are paying the price… they ruin the soil.) Awesome post… I like how you sequenced the memory of your mom’s garden to yours today.

  2. rosecappelli says:

    “She was a lady of color and chaos.” Love this line. I love balloon flowers and have some in my garden now (despite the fact that the bunnies love them, too). The year after I first planted them I mistakenly pulled them out thinking they were weeds! But I quickly learned. Thanks for sharing this wonderful memory.

  3. Hello and Happy Fourth from Wisconsin! I just knew your post would be on Balloon Flowers by the title. I love how you wove the story together and it speaks to the heritage of gardening – even across state lines. I do not have any of these in my garden but do love the color. A great post to read as I came in from the heat and mulching my own gardens today! Thanks!

  4. Such a nice slice, with the love bursting through… love for your mom and her garden, love for the plants themselves, and for your own garden.

  5. Ramona says:

    Loved reading about the balloon flowers and the stars they become. I loved reading your memories of weeding for your mom, “a lady of color and chaos.

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