The name Codonopsis is derived from Greek “kodon” (bell) and “opsis” (appearance), from the shape of the flower.
Codonopsis are found in the mountains of Cental Asia, Korea and Japan. Some species have long thin stems that climb through low shrubs. Other species form low, sprawling shrubs, or climb weakly by simply draping themselves over branches. The flowers vary from star shaped to bell shaped, their colours range from white, cream, light greens, light to dark blues, reddish purple to black, often with a combination of these colors. From our experience they seem to do best in partial shade, but will take full sun if their roots remain cool (As per Clematis). They all prefer well drained soil and where winters are wet, a sheltered position with a dry mulch is recommended.
It must be mentioned that the leaves of Codonopsis often smell like cat urine when you rub them. (Ed: why rub them!) So this is a plant for people who like growing Arums and will tolerate the stink for the sake of beauty.
Codonopsis is sometimes referred to as “poor mans ginseng”. It is said that codonopsis produces nutritive tubers that lend themselves to being included in cooking and medicinal preparations. For example Codonopsis is often added to soup to enhance the health benefits of the soup but it also makes an excellent meat substitute. In Oriental medicine, codonopsis is used to treat yin deficiency conditions and increase precious qi. This makes it useful for those who are tired or suffering from chronic fatigue. It also helps to reduce the risk of peptic ulcers. The Chinese prefer to use Codonopsis pilosula in medicine; but Koreans favor Codonopsis lanceolata or todok. Both are edible.
The plant comes from southern Tibet and western and central Nepal in mountain shrubberies up to 3,600m.
An exceptionally pretty plant for the open woodland garden. It grows as a delicate vine to 1.5m and has large blue flowers with a purple ring in late summer. Grow in fulll to partial shade in fertile, well-drained soil with moderate water.
This species is named after Englishman Christopher Grey-Wilson. He was rincipal scientific officer at Kew and led expeditions to Afghanistan, Iran and Nepal. He was Editor at the Alpine Garden Society for 22 years. He is the author of several books regarded as standard works, including The Genus Cyclamen, The Illustrated Flora of Britain and Northern Europe, How to Identify Wild Flowers, The Alpine Flowers of Britain and Northern Europe, A Manual of Alpine and Rock Garden Plants, and The Alpine Garden.