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English Bluebellls

March 15, 2012

I had a lovely gift of two pots of English bluebells, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, last weekend and I have found just the place to plant them. Hopefully they’ll colonise in what I euphemistically call my ‘woodland’ garden.  It’s all of three metres by five metres but is in shade from next door’s mulberry tree and my garden shed. It does  especially well in spring and at the moment it’s full of Narcissi tete a tete and crocuses.  The bluebells will be a very welcome addition to follow on in May and this has prompted me to look at other areas that can be improved by more spring bulbs.

It’s a good time of year to make an assessment with the ground still relatively empty and to make notes in the diary to prompt a bulb order in September.  I realise I am quite conservative about my approach to bulb purchases for the actual garden, less so for my pots, but I now see there’s room for much more spring interest.  As I planted out my bluebells I could  imagine huge swathes of them next year mingling with the narcissi and crocus.

As a bulb the English bluebell is available from under Scilla Nutans (Endymion Non Scriptus). But it can be purchased ‘in the green’ till the end of March from or the which has them for sale ‘in the green’ as an offer. In the landscape the English bluebell mainly dominate in woodland areas where they are identified by the flowers on one side of the stalk. It is this that gives them their characteristic curve,  the weight of the flowers pulls the stalk down. As a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1998 landowners are prohibited from removing English bluebells on their land for sale and it’s  a criminal offence for the public to remove bulbs from woodlands.  This protection is necessary since Hyacinthoides hispanica, the Spanish bluebell, threatens to out-compete our native plant. The Spanish bulb is the one most commonly found in gardens and is identified by broader leaves and flowers borne on more than one side of the stem. It came with the garden when we bought the house and for decades it has filled the ground along one wall. I don’t want the effort of lifting hundreds of bulbs and re-planting with the English variety so I’ll limit the latter to the far end which is free of any bluebells.

Today I made notes on other areas in the garden that would be enhanced with a wider selection of spring bulbs. My hellebores in this image are looking gorgeous but have bags of empty ground around them and would look even lovelier with bulbs of Iris ‘Katherine Hodgkin’ flowering at the same time next March. And the area under deciduous trees and shrubs is an ideal space for early flowering bulbs that can then die back once the foliage and tree canopy takes over. Under my Sambucus ‘Black Beauty’ I shall plant bulbs of Leucojum aestivum ‘Gravetye Giant’.  Under the Clerodendron trichotomum tree which comes into leaf really late I’ll plant dozens of the lily flowered Tulipa ‘White Triumphator’.

In the meantime it’s in the diary for an autumn bulb order and by next spring the garden should be looking much fuller.

This weeks cut flowers a dish of hellebore heads and the petals from a hyacinth bulb found living alone in the garden.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2012 11:38 am

    Your woodland garden may be small, but I’d say it’s pretty perfectly formed and looks better and better, year after year.

    This is a very timely post – I’ve been gazing at bits of bare earth too and reassessing the placement of all my bulbs. Do you think it’s ok to lift the little irises such as Katherine Hodgkin and Cantab, now that they are over, and put them where I now see that they should be (under the Amelanchiers, and so coming up through the fallen leaves next spring)?

    • March 15, 2012 11:44 am

      Hi Charlotte I seem to remember Dan Pearson saying that the small bulbs he grows in pots for the house can, after flowering, be re-planted in the garden or into grass. He lets them dry out for a few weeks before re-planting so that there’s no chance of rotting.


  2. March 15, 2012 11:48 am

    Bluebells are my favourite flowers! I planted loads a few years ago in the hope of recreating my very own bluebell ‘virtual wood’ in the city…

  3. March 15, 2012 7:41 pm

    I hope your bluebells spread and grow well in your woodland garden. We inherited some in our front garden and moved them to the back and they have multiplied well, I love them even though the flowering period is hort.

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