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Growing Bluebells

Bluebells have brilliant blue blossoms that add a dash of colour to the landscape. Each plant produces up to 100 tiny blue-violet bell-shaped flowers that emit a honey-sweet fragrance. They bloom season after season, gradually multiplying in number. Bluebells are the perfect choice for growing in lightly shaded rock gardens, under trees or amongst garden borders. There are two main types:

English bluebells are native to France and England and have been gracing gardens and wooded areas since the early 1500’s. They grow to 25-30cm and are planted in autumn for spring flowering. The flowers are fragrant and make a wonderful addition to any cut bouquet. The flowers are all on the same side of the stalk and when gravity kicks in the stalk bends in a dainty curve.

Spanish bluebells are similar in many ways to English bluebells apart from the fact that they bloom in more open areas. Spanish bluebell stalks are straight and do not display the curve as seen in English bluebells. The sword-like foliage is shiny and arches out of the ground in a tuft-like shape. The sturdy flower stems are 30-40cm tall and look great in a vase. Spanish bluebells do not have as strong a fragrance as English bluebells and tend to bloom a bit later.

Both are wonderful bulbs that make the perfect transition between early bulb flowers and perennial flowers in your garden. When the perennials come into bloom, the bluebells will disappear until next year.

Planting

Fortunately for all fans of this charming plant, bluebells are highly tolerant and can thrive in part shade to dappled sunlight. Plant the bulbs with the pointed end facing upwards, about 10cm deep and about 15cm apart. They will do best in fertile, well-drained soils. They seed down and naturalize easily and look beautiful in informal drifts among tall shrubs, under deciduous trees and among perennials. You must provide water regularly from the time you plant the bulbs and until the foliage dies down in summer. The bulbs are great for containers and are excellent for cutting.