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Above: Elizabeth Burkmyer, “Campanula Medium, the Canterbury Bell, having come straight down from the days of the herbalists; in several colors. Some of the flowers abnormal in being six-parted. Southern Europe,” in L. H. Bailey, Garden of Bellflowers (1953), frontispiece. Below: Elizabeth Burkmyer, “Campanula Portenschlagiana. Yugoslavia,” in L. H. Bailey, Garden of Bellflowers (1953), pl. 21. “Campanula rotundifolia,” in L. H. Bailey, ed., Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture (1914), vol. II, fig. 771, and here. “One of the forms of Campanula punctata,” in L. H. Bailey, Manual of Gardening (1925), fig. 254, and also in LHBGC, p. 93

“The bellflowers appeal for the most part to the quieter and restrained emotions. Most of the species are not impertinent and gaudy, nor do they lend themselves to display. Seldom are they seen in bouquets. They are eminently plants for the garden-lover, for those persons who graciously accept cool nights and soft rains and dews, who respond to the milder sensations and derive sustaining satisfactions from gentle experiences.” –The Garden of Bellflowers, p. 2

Bailey’s final series of books, which he simply titled the Garden Books, came to only four volumes, although it seems he may have desired to write more of them. As previously described on the Gourds page, each volume took as its focus a different family of horticultural plant, treating the subject both through botanical taxonomy and through personal and artistic appreciation. The Garden of Gourds, Pinks, and Larkspurs were published each year consecutively from 1937-1939, replicating the book-a-year pace of his early professional years, and in preparation for each book he would grow as many varieties of the plant in his personal gardens as possible, describing such specially designated plots as “specimen gardens.” For the fourth volume he planned to cover the bellflowers, or campanulas—but then, as he would write much later in the book’s preface, “intervened the years of murderous conflicts.” The paper supply to publishers was limited by federal austerity measures during the second World War, and Bailey’s Garden Books apparently became one casualty. No book appeared in 1940. Macmillan would finally publish it in 1953, when Bailey was ninety-five years old.

“[Bellflowers] are for those who love to grow plants for the joy of growing them, who respond to the subdued and delicate tints in flowers, who like small but shapely seed-pods, who may treasure them on their own rear grounds and do not go to the shows for exhibitional effects and masses of color. […] Most of the bellflowers I do not discover from the highway or glint them from an airplane. I must go to see them where in complacency they grow.” –The Garden of Bellflowers (1953), pp. 2-3

The bellflowers were another family that had been with Bailey his whole life, since the days when he would wander the dunes along Lake Michigan with Asa Gray’s Manual of Botany identifying plants like the Campanula rotundiflora, at right, which is common among the sand dunes of western Michigan. He remembered in The Garden of Bellflowers that he “had grown many of them since boyhood” (p. 1). Perhaps such wild flowers made their way into his childhood hobby gardens at home. His lifelong admiration of them also comes through in the poem below, which appeared in his poetry collection Wind and Weather in 1916. He also used the poem to conclude The Garden of Bellflowers, which would turn out to be his last book; he died the next year. It is also one of the poems included in LHBGC, pp. 120-1.


There is a ferny dell I know
Where spiry stalks of harebell grow.
It is a little cool retreat
Of bosky scents and airs complete.
There is a maze of fragile stems
That hang their pods above the hems
Of mossy fountains crystal clear
‘Mongst webby threads of gossamer
And filmy tints of green and blue
A-strung in beads of fragrant dew.
A tiny stroke the blue-bell rings
As on its slender cord is swings,
And if you listen long and well
You’ll hear the music in the bell.

And often when I’ve toiled with men
Or passed my day with plans and pen
Or fled afar on starry seas,
I join the camp of moths and bees
And wander by the minty pools
To sedge and fern and campanules.
And then I lie on twig and grass
And watch the slimsy creatures pass,
And find the little folk that dwells
So deep inside the azure bells
I wonder how they come and go.
And as I listen long and low
I catch the cadence of a note
Astir within the petal throat,
I hear a tiny octave played
And slender music, crystal-rayed.

There are two worlds that I know full well—
The world of men and the petal bell.

See Bailey’s horticultural entries on bellflowers (Campanula) in:

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