Martha’s Vineyard gardeners beware: campanula moves in and stays

Campanula rapunculoides is relentlessly invasive, crowding out competitors wherever it can. — Photo by Susan Safford

It feels as if I am locked in mortal (garden) combat with adenophora’s evil twin, Campanula rapunculoides. The mild description in the American Horticultural Society’s “Encyclopedia of Perennials” as “A pleasing species but liable to become a rampant weed,” is an understatement. Kathy Purdy, the owner of the website Cold Climate Gardening, coined the “evil twin” phrase.

A medium tall campanula, C. rapunculoides spreads by seeds as well as by creeping fleshy roots and has a talent for squeezing out neighboring choice plants in the garden. The Encyclopedia suggests it would be suitable for the woodland edge or a truly wild, grassy area, but I find that it inexorably, ineluctably seeds into the heart of the garden. Do not let anyone share it with you. Forewarned is forearmed.

When reading up on the differences between adenophora and C. rapunculoides, I learned that experts agree that 99 percent of adenophera sold in nurseries is actually C. rapunculoides. There is a technique for discriminating between them, done by carefully tearing apart a flower, described here,

On the other hand, choice tall campanulas such as C. lactiflora, C. latifolia, and C. latiloba — the portions of the binomial called the ‘specific’ all too similar, unfortunately — today are infrequently seen in nurseries and gardens, and are much better behaved. Look for C. lactiflora ‘Loddon Anna,’ (soft pink), ‘Alba,’ and ‘Pritchard’s Variety,’ (violet purple).

Campanula latifolia is found in var. alba; ‘Amethyst,’ (light purple); ‘Brantwood,’ (deep violet blue); and ‘Gloaming,’ (pale lilac blue). Campanula latiloba is found in ‘Alba;’ ‘Hidcote Amethyst,’ (amethyst blue purple tints); ‘Highcliffe Variety,’ (violet blue). These three species are all between three and four feet and benefit from being staked.

In the Garden

The rains during the end of May and early June have been a boon to replenish water tables but have hastened the passing of the iris/peony/rose climax. As one’s garden shows more color, there is more maintenance. It is important to deadhead, especially Siberian iris as they are prolific seeders and hybridizers; all such tasks proliferate as bloom does.

Sawfly on roses is common at this time. If the foliage is sporting raw, skeletonized, scraped-over patches, it is the work of the rose sawfly larvae. Control measures include horticultural oil, insecticidal soap, and neem sprays: apply early or late in the day to prevent sun damage to foliage. Or look for the small green slugs and pick off and destroy. Their presence may also indicate that the plant is stressed, in which case re-examine its nutrition and water situation.

The pollen storm continues, a topic of conversation everywhere on Martha’s Vineyard at this time of year. There is a perception that the pollen amounts have been increasing. Are these plants — oaks, pines, grasses, autumn olive — worried about something?

In vegetable gardens, indeterminate tomato vines by now need to have their axillary shoots pruned out. Determinate ones grow in a way that makes this unnecessary, favored by commercial growers and home gardeners alike when it come to processing, because they ripen their fruit all at once.

A pruned and staked indeterminate plant will produce larger fruit two to three weeks earlier than one that is allowed to grow at will. A video showing this procedure may be seen at but the basic idea is to reduce some of the growth the plant is capable of making and create one that is more easily supported.

Each frond in an indeterminate vine will sprout little suckers in the axils, between it and the main stem. Take them out. The video link above demonstrates pruning to a two-leader format, by leaving the sucker before the first flower cluster. I generally try for just one leader since I plant my vines a little closer together.

Culinary Sorrel

Fishermen are bringing in stripers. The noted British food writer Elizabeth David wrote in her “Summer Cooking,” (Penguin Books, London, 1965): “Of all vegetables, I think perhaps sorrel is the one that goes best with coarse fish…” and I agree.

Having reappraised the French sorrel (Rumex scutatus) growing in my garden as a true culinary wonder, I am finding as many ways as I can to experience it. It is a delightful thing, whether as sorrel soup or as a filling for an omelette. Try it as an accompaniment to striped bass. Ms. David offers two recipes for purées, each used slightly differently. Due to sorrel’s high oxalic acid content, use non-reactive cookware when cooking it.

Purée of Sorrel 1

“Wash the sorrel and pick over. Cook for about ten minutes in a little salted water. Drain as dry as possible and chop finely. Put into a pan with a lump of butter. For a pound of sorrel add [five ounces] cream and then two beaten eggs. When the purée thickens it is ready. On a basis of the sorrel purée may be served poached or hard-boiled eggs, white fish, pork chops … or veal”

Purée of sorrel 2

“A handful of sorrel leaves, two or three tablespoons of cream or béchamel sauce, butter.

Chop the cleaned sorrel and melt it in a little bubbling butter. Stir it for two or three minutes, season with salt, and add the cream or béchamel; cook a few more minutes until the mixture has thickened a little. Serve in the same way as the preceding purée, as a filling for an omelette, or the basis of a soup.”

MVAS Membership

The fee schedule of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society is being overhauled and increases are coming. A membership is a free ticket to the Fair for all four days. Help keep the Fair going by joining the Agricultural Society now. Current prices apply until August 1st: single adult, $30; single child, $12; family (2 adults, 2 children), $60; additional children, $8; individual lifetime, $150.