In the spring, here in West Wales, we have the huge pleasure of seeing lots and lots of bluebells in bloom. When they are out in full bloom, it is always like Mother Nature is smiling.
The classic British wildflower, Bluebells are one plant that nearly everyone can recognise. But did you know that more than one species can be found in our woods and that bluebells aren’t always blue; there are white ones and some are pink.
Perfectly adapted to cope well in our woodlands, Bluebells flower before trees grow their full canopy of leaves, so while they flower, there is more light even under the trees. Since they grow so well in ancient woodland conditions, you may be treated to seeing massive drifts of them.
Bluebells are found in many more places than just woodlands, they grow along the coast, on sea cliffs, along shady banks, in fields, grasslands, along the roadsides and in our home gardens. The environment Bluebells prefer is moist but well drained soil. They will grow in dappled shade as well as in bright sunshine.
Spanish or English?
Spanish Bluebells are charming, but English Bluebells are the more fragrant. Since the woodlands of Wales and over all of the United Kingdom, often contain lots of deciduous trees, these unassuming, beautiful little bulbs often pop up and flower during the month of May. Where our native birches grow, the contrast of the blue flowers and the birches’ white trunks is truly spectacular. In the garden, the blue flowers can create a striking contrast when planted near emerging foliage, such as Cotinus coggygria, a red-leafed shrub, variegated hostas and many of the hybrid tea roses.
Britain has more than just one species of these delightful plants, in fact we have two species and a hybrid. English and Spanish bluebells are often confused and may be listed as wood hyacinths or blue squill. The many botanical name changes hasn’t help the confusion. Scilla Hispanica is native to Spain and Portugal, but are also grown here. The thicker, straight stem with bells all around are the Spanish bluebells. While the hybrid has a slightly drooping stem with bells all around.
Regardless of which type you have – English or Spanish, spring has truly arrived when the bluebells are in bloom. Information on the Natural History website can help you identify which bluebells you have.
Plant the bulbs in the autumn and you’ll get to enjoy the fruits of all that hard work when spring arrives. Spring flowering bulbs are among the most rewarding plants to grow. They don’t really need much attention once planted but after a few years, they may need dividing or moving.
To get more clumps of these delightful flowers, propagate them by dividing the larger clumps and planting them in drifts. Once their leaves have turned yellow and gone limp, dig up the clumps of bulbs, separate them into smaller clumps or keep them as singles and replant.
And, if you want to see fairies at the bottom of the garden, you might want to know that Bluebells are considered to be the most potent of Fairy Magic plants, especially in ancient woodlands. Woodlands are after all, a place of enchantments and spells woven by the fairy people.
The strongest magic of the bluebells is that whether you are young or old, these charming flowers attract us all with their magical blue carpet.