Petal Pusher: Talking Flowers with Holly

Holly Robertson.
This this week’s bouquet featuring Campanula (white bell shaped flowers), Larkspur, Peppergrass, Yarrow, Veronica, Feverfew, Euphorbia, and Buckwheat. PHOTO BY RUBY F. MCALLISTER

Hello! I’m Holly Robertson of Five R Farm located in rural Reinbeck. I’m a late-blooming flower farmer and by no means an expert! I’ve been growing flowers and veggies for five years for both CSAs (weekly or bi-weekly veggie and/or flower share deliveries) and the Reinbeck Farmer’s Market (Saturdays from 11-1 on Broad Street in downtown Reinbeck). I also grow flowers for dried arrangements and crafts. This new biweekly, seasonal column will focus on all things flowers by highlighting at least one variety from my current CSA bouquet.

The focal flower in this week’s bouquet is Campanula – a variety I was originally pronouncing as ‘Camp-Anula’ which sounds more like the summer camp I spent a week attending in 6th grade, but that’s another story! It is actually pronounced ‘Cam-pan-ula’ and is also known by the much easier pronunciation of bellflower or Canterbury Bells. They are considered an old-fashioned flower popular in cottage gardens (I’ve read they were introduced to British gardens in the 16th Century and were some of the first imported flowers to colonial America.) The bell-shaped flowers, symbols of gratitude and faithfulness, are very sturdy and long-lasting. I can imagine them looking fresh and modern with their clean lines in a bridal bouquet or en masse as a centerpiece.

I purchased the seeds through Johnny’s Seeds (one of my go-tos for an abundance of flower and veggie varieties) and chose the Champion II White variety. I sowed the seeds in August of 2023, then transplanted them in my high tunnel in October of that year. My first attempt at overwintering this cold hardy flower was a success! The plants came out of their dormancy in February and they have been blooming for the past couple weeks. These flowers are one and done – unlike Zinnias or Dahlias which the more you cut the more they bloom. I’ve read Canterbury Bells are perennials but have also seen them listed as annuals. I will have to wait until next spring to find out for sure! Regardless, I’ll definitely be buying more seeds and growing these again while looking forward to seeing their cheerful bells next spring.

Holly Robertson owns and operates Five R Farm in rural Reinbeck along with her husband Ben. In addition to growing flowers and vegetables for the local farmers market and seasonal CSA, the Robertsons also own and operate Reinbeck’s only bar-meets-record-store, The Dig Inn. Their fifth-generation family farm is home to two adorable Nubian goats, Margie and Hank, and a colony of honey bees.