Category: Horticulture Highlight

Balloon Flower

September 7, 2021

bring the balloon of the mind

that bellies and drags in the wind

into its narrow shed.

            -Yeats

Herein our balloons are tangible and closer to the ground, the long-blooming Balloon Flower, Platycodon grandifloras. Before these chalice-shaped, blue to purple, but also less commonly white or pink flowers open, their flower buds swell into little sphere-shapes, hence the common name. These buds will pop audibly when squeezed, but take our word for it let them flower instead. Within the CAMPANULACEAE, the bellflower family, this genus contains only one species (monotypic) although there are numerous cultivated varieties. This species and several of its cultivars have been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit blooming from late-June to September.

Purple flowers of Platycodon grandifloras

This perennial is native to eastern Asia and will have stems reaching 2-3-feet high. Balloon Flower is used in traditional Chinese medicine. In Korea these plants have culinary usage. In Japan these flowers are included in the Seven Flowers of Autumn which since the Nara Period (710-794) have inspired poetry and art.

On a future visit to Mount Auburn allow yourself to also be inspired by these Balloon Flowers found at Asa Gray Garden and Cypress Avenue.

Blue color is everlastingly appointed by the Deity to be a source of delight.

            -John Ruskin

Why make so much of fragmentary blue

in here and there a bird, or butterfly,

or flower, or wearing-stone, or open eye,

when heaven presents in sheets the solid hue?…

            -Robert Frost