Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Balloon Flowers

These balloon flowers have been growing in my "corral" for at least 20 years-ever since it was built. The original idea was to build an enclosure to keep the deer out of my flowers. And, it did work, to a certain extent. The adult deer do not come in, but the fawns go right through those parallel  boards and nip a few things. Once I disturbed one that was bedded down inside the corral and it almost scared us both to death.
The fence does not deter rabbits, however, and they have killed most of my lilies that used to live there by repeatedly nipping out the tops.

 I have never had any  attacks on my balloon flowers-not deer, not rabbits, fungus, or insects.  They are hardy to an incredible degree and  blue flowers are always welcome in my garden.
 Balloon flowers do need support, at least the taller ones. I put a smaller tomato cage (the kind made from welded rings) around the plants to keep them from falling to the ground. They lean on this support and are beautiful for months if  I keep the spent flowers cut off. Starting in early spring, I keep watch on the stems and tuck any that have a wayward bent back inside the cage. I leave the cage on all year, because before they come out in late spring, it's easy to loose track of where they are and dig into them.
 Balloon flowers (Platycodon grandifloris) can be started from seed (I started mine this way), but can also be propagated by root division, although this needs to be done gently so as not to  tear the thick roots unnecessarily. They are said to root by stem cuttings also, but I've not had luck with this. I am trying again this year, and so far so good. The cuttings have not keeled over (yet).
My balloon flowers are growing in partial shade, in fairly dense clay. I do not fertilize them with any regularity, so they are mostly on their own, doing a good job of taking care of themselves.
I have never seen these for sale locally, and suspect that the best way to get them is by ordering plants or seed. They typically will not bloom the first year, but after that they should bloom for the rest of your life with a minimum of care. Interestingly, in spite of their trouble free hardiness, I can't remember ever having seen them in anyone else's garden. Maybe a public garden. If you grow them, let me know, and where your garden is located.

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