The Chinese bell flower is a common perennial but better known as the balloon flower. It's a fun flower to grow with kids because of the shape of the flower buds.
Originally from Asia, the balloon flower now grows all around the world. The white, pink or blue buds slowly puff up like a hot air balloon and eventually open into a star-shaped blossom. Children love to press on the flowers once fully inflated to see and hear them pop open.
There are a number of varieties of this carefree perennial. "Fuji" comes in blue, white or pink and features three foot tall plants. "Shell Pink" has pale pink blooms on two foot tall plants. "Sentimental Blue" only grows a foot and is great for rock gardens and in front of flower boarders.
Balloon flowers can be grown by planting a seed in soil during spring and keeping well watered; however, it will take a few years for the plant to reach full flowering potential. So consider buying full grown plants from a nursery or getting divisions from friends. Learn more about growing them by listening to this episode of The Vermont Garden Journal.
Now for this week's tip: Keep picking those cucumbers and zucchinis. As the harvest hits its stride, keep picking; even if you can't stand to eat another cucumber salad. By harvesting early and often, you'll encourage more fruits to keep coming. If you let some develop into huge monsters with mature seeds inside, the plant will slow production.