Eric La Fountaine took today’s photo earlier this week in the E.H. Lohbrunner Alpine Garden.
Campanulaceae (bellflower family) consists of about 70 genera and 2000 herb, shrub, and (rarely) tree species that are distributed broadly over the surface of the earth (excluded regions are the Sahara, Antarctica, and Greenland). The family's species exhibit simple leaves that are arranged either alternately or oppositely, and they don bisexual, bell-shaped flowers which develop into berry or capsular fruits.
Platycodon is a monotypic genus (consisting of a single species) native to parts of Korea, Siberia, Japan, and China, from where Robert Fortune collected the plants for Britain’s Royal Horticultural Society (R.H.S.) in 1843. The species, a perennial herb, is renowned for its floppy stems, balloon-like valvate flower buds, and, of course, its brightly coloured, deeply veined, and bell-shaped flowers. It is from these last distinguishing features that the genus derives its name, which comes from the Greek for 'broad bell'. Platycodon's notoriously flimsy stems, which in gardens often require staking, grow to about 45 centimetres in height and bear sharply serrated ovate leaves that can reach up to 15 centimetres in length. Though they are variously hardy to drought and to the climates of Zones 3 through 7, plants require deep, well-drained, moist soil conditions and exposure to full sun in summer—along with drier conditions when dormant—in order to excel.
Platycodon grandiflorus is often employed as an anti-inflammatory or as treatment for coughs and colds, and, in Korea, it is used in salads and in several traditional dishes as well. Today, all but one petal on one of the flowers of our dwarf cultivar, 'Albus', looked like an immaculate piece of white paper; the fifth petal was stained with a streak of dark blue that seemed to run down its white body like a drop of spilled ink. On a different blossom, two petals took on this rich blue colour.