Martyn Falconer, the AELTC Head Gardener, knows all about seeds, blossoming talent and rampant climbers. In this series he nominates his Plant of the Day.
If the campanula were a tennis player, it would be one who cannot exist without a large entourage of staff to look after its every need. ‘Campanula’ means little bell, and while it may be one of the most appealing of perennial bellflowers – bearing a glorious load of tiny, dangling lavender-blue bells – the so-called ‘Fairy Thimble’ is an ogre in terms of its prima donna demands. So much primping and pampering does it require in the form of deadheading that it has been declared the undisputed No. 1 Neediest Flower at Wimbledon.
At 5.30am every day, Head Gardener Martyn Falconer sends out a team to embark on the five-hour back-breaking, finger-numbing process of removing faded or dead flowers from the plants in order to maintain them in peak condition and improve their overall performance as top edging plant. Yes, you read that right: FIVE HOURS. Each of the 2,180 specimens around the grounds needs to be individually tended and preened fit for public attention.
“It is very time-consuming,” sighs Falconer. “We have phased them out a bit to lower the number and put in more of other plants that are low-growing and offer a show of colour at the front edge of boxes, planters and beds – more Euonymous, Veronica and Hebe.”
That said, the Bavarian Blue variety is otherwise trouble-free. Providing a stunning and dainty addition of purple to the front of borders, beds and boxes, it also boasts the perfect temperament for the traditional grass court season. The campanula is known to perform best in regions with cool summers.
As a low, cushiony mat of tiny green leaves and delicate mass of baby bell flowers – situated right at the front of raised beds – the campanula does prompt the odd upset alert. Unfortunately it tends to invite the wrong kind of attention. ‘Please do not sit on the plants’ is a heart-felt sign from Gardening HQ which you might spot in a border. The tendency of some visitors to use the campanula cover as disguise for cigarette butts also causes great anguish.
“They are very fragile and sometimes have to be replaced after the police dogs have sniffed their way through them,” says one of Martyn’s assistants. “We see quite a few changeovers with the campanula throughout The Championships.”