Friday, 15 April 2011

Bluebells (15 APR 2011)

Highlights of the garden this week are bluebells growing around my foxglove plants in the shade of the cherry blossom tree.

 

Bluebells are sometimes coloured white or pink, and I'm fortunate enough to have the complete palette on display in my garden, but I'm afraid to say that's where the good news ends...

I've always thought of the bottom of my garden as my small piece of woodland, it's only the width of the garden shed. I inherited it this way from the previous owner - it has a cherry blossom tree with all its suckers, a wisteria tree, various shrubs, and in between them, bluebells have naturalised. My only contribution so far are foxgloves which I planted there to compare flowering performance with others situated in brighter locations. I've dreamt of extending the woodland forwards, by removing two rows of patio slabs, and transferring the cherry suckers to give them room to live their own lives, but more importantly to create space for more foxgloves. My dreams come true more frequently these days, since I started gardening.

After many reminders about the importance of native gardening and creating habitats for wildlife to thrive, it occurred to me that I could dedicate the woodland to this campaign, as the work had begun already, bluebells and foxgloves being indigenous to England.


However, while trying to find out if the pink and white bluebells had their own name, I discovered a photo almost identical to my pink variant listed as "hyacinthoids non-scripta x hispanica hybrid" in a gallery of “Alien Species & Garden Escapes”.

Hyacinthoids is the botanical name for bluebells which are in the same family as hyacinths. Non-scripta, meaning unmarked (compared to hyacinths), is the species native to England (Scotland has it's own), whereas hispanica originates in Spain. According to the British Natural History Museum's classification, the most obvious difference between the two is that the English native only has bluebells on one side of the stem which causes the stem to bow, it's rarely seen in white and even more rarely in pink. On the other hand, the Spanish native has bluebells around the stem, making it easier to balance, it holds itself upright. On closer inspection, the former has tubular, sweet-scented bells while the latter has cup-shaped bells, with less perfume.

Having made this discovery, I am now faced with a dilemma.

Should I dig up my alien, naturalised, multi-coloured bluebells and replace them with natives? ... or leave them be?  Spain isn't so far away after all.
Where would I obtain natives anyway? - is there a guarantee that bulbs labelled as "hyacinthoids non-scripta" will be such and not hybrids?  
Having said that, aesthetically, I do prefer the tubular bells of non-scripta, the way they bow down meekly, and I'm curious to know what they smell like.
Something to think about ...

Finally, featuring heavily in my garden at the moment, but not exactly highlights, are dandelions which along with the bluebells are blooming at least a month earlier than usual as we are experiencing an unusually frost-free April.


To determine if your bluebells are English natives ....

Bluebell (hyacinthoids) Hybrids are amongst Aliens and Garden Escapes found growing in England ....


This post will be linked to MayDreamsGardens for Garden Bloggers Bloom Day which is the 15th of every month. Visit Carol's site to find out what's flowering in gardens around the world today.

©Copyright 2011 b-a-g. All rights reserved.

22 comments:

NellJean said...

Your bluebells are lovely. I wouldn't change a thing. All my bluebells are pinkbells.

RBell said...

This is my first year to have any hyacinthoids in my garden - if they grow to be as lovely as yours, then I'll be a happy gardener!

Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens said...

As I started reading your post I thought gee those English native bluebells look an awful lot like what I call Scilla campanulata, Spanish bluebells. This plant is not a problem (that I know of) where I live in the US, and it is extremely versatile and easy to grow in sun or shade. I would only remove it from your garden if it is an invasive exotic in England, for example, if it is impacting your native bluebells. If it is then I think I would feel obligated to get rid of it. Otherwise it's a nice non-native plant.

DD said...

Love Love Love your bluebells, even the Spanish ones. I too have a back border with an apple tree in it which I am trying to make a little woodland space in. So far I have lily of the valley, bluebells, and wood anemone. I got my bluebells in the green from Thompson and Morgan and they are native. They have been relatively successful, but I've only just put them in so it will take a while for them to naturalise. The other problem is I've found Thompson and Morgan, although often having plants no-one else does, are a little hit and miss on the success of the bulbs. A bulb supplier I would reccomend without hesitation is a family run business called Kevock Garden Bulbs, (they have a website). You'll pay a little more but it's worth it. I think I've rambled enough now. Good luck with your bluebells!

One said...

Hi! All your flowers look really lovely. I wouldn't want to dig anything up. Good to know your dreams are coming true. More are coming... :)

Donna said...

I have tried to grow the more native ones here in the Staes and have not been successful...so I do grow the Spanish ones...they are gorgeous...

patientgardener said...

I tried to work out whether mine were native or alien species and couldn't work it out. I came to the conclusion that I didn't care. The bluebells I have have moved house with me 3 times and I'm not about to dig them up

Crafty Gardener said...

You have some lovely blooms for GBBD.

debsgarden said...

They are beautiful and seem happy in your garden. I agree with Carolyn above; I wouldn't remove them unless they are a threat to other plants.

b-a-g said...

NellJean, RBell, One, Crafty Gardener, Deb - Thanks for your compliments. The responses to this post are totally different to what I expected. I had my fork at the ready to dig them up.

DD - Thanks for the bulb supplier recommendations. I'll check them out. I read your post about worms.

Carolyn, Donna, PatientGardener - I've been nosing around in people's front gardens and inspecting the local park, but I can only see Spanish-looking bluebells. I have yet to see an English bluebell.

Alistair said...

B-a-g, I new where you were heading after your first sentence. The flowers of the Spanish bluebells are pretty, less delicate than your native ones and unfortunately hellish looking leaves. We have a few in the garden, I have to say I am not really a fan. If you do decide to get rid of them, you may find that you have your work cut out. Seems like you can plant them five inches deep, within a few years they will have burrowed to at least two feet.

b-a-g said...

Alistair - We know each other so well now ... I agree about the leaves. When they first appeared, it was nice to see some fresh greeness, but after the flowers have died, the leaves are all crushed and soggy. You're supposed to leave them for a while to feed the bulbs, but I just cut them off last year because they were so unsightly.

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

I love your blooms for GBBD. The bluebells are pretty and even so are the dandelions.

Mac_fromAustralia said...

Pink and white bluebells, I never knew! Interesting post, and pretty photos.

p3chandan said...

Lovely bluebells in all colours and type and make your garden so beautiful with their bright colours.

Stacy said...

I've always thought that dandelions were much maligned--but then, as a child, it was my job to get rid of them in our lawn, and it was more fun to think of reasons to leave them there. Yours are certainly very cheerful and tidy.

Perhaps you could keep with the experimental theme and see who does best when you grow the English and Spanish bluebells side by side? Why not have your cake and eat it? The woodland nook is a lovely idea, especially under that beautiful cherry tree!

b-a-g said...

Thanks Donna GWGT - I thought that dandelions were natives but apparently not. They've certainly made themselves at home in my garden.

Thanks Mac - Welcome to my blog, all the way from Australia.

Thanks p3 - I really like the balsams in your garden.

Stacy - A brilliant idea (I love cake) - that is exactly what I'll do. I'll try and source English Blubell seeds rather than bulbs so that I can write up a full report.

lifeshighway said...

I think I would leave the lovely bluebells alone as they have naturalized and are filling in the space quite nicely.

Your garden is looking lovely this Spring.

b-a-g said...

Thanks LH - looking forward to your report on the Austin Yard Art festival.

Pauline said...

If you would like some seed, I can let you have some from my English bluebells, just get in touch with me. However I must warn you that they will cross with your Spanish ones if they are within bee flying distance! Good post showing the problems we have with some plants.

b-a-g said...

Thanks Pauline and a kind offer. I suppose that the advantage of bulbs is that they stay true to their species as they naturalise.

buy blue bells said...

Your bluebells are my favorite...

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