Molucella: bells of Ireland, shellflower
Height 60cm (2ft)
Planting distance 23cm (9in)
Flowers late summer to early autumn
Open sunny site
Bells of Ireland – a misleading name, as the species Molucella laevis comes from Syria – is a favourite among flower arrangers, not because of its, which are small and insignificant, but because of large pale green belllike calyces which surround them. These are arranged in tall graceful spikes 23cm (9in) long and borne on erect stems clothed with light green rounded leaves.
Bells of Ireland make unusual border decorations as well as cut flowers that last for months in water. They can also be dried for winter arrangements. Pick in warm dry weather towards the end of summer.
Sow the seeds under glass in early spring at a temperature of 15°C (59°F), just covering them with compost. Prick out the seedlings into boxes and harden off in a cold frame before planting out in late spring, 23cm (9in) apart. Bells of Ireland will grow in any ordinary garden soil, though well-drained rich soil in an open sunny site provides the perfect conditions.
As the plants are moderately hardy, seeds can also be sown in the flowering site inand the seedlings thinned to 23cm (9in) apart.
Pests and diseases