Thursday, 6 September 2012

BLUEBELL BULBS (hyacinthoides non scripta)

There is nothing more quintessentially English than a woodland carpeted with Bluebells - beautiful.
Bluebells are perennial. Member of the Lily family. Clusters of bell-shaped flowers from April to June. Grows to about 12 ins (30 cm) high. Found in woodlands so looks good planted under trees. Unrelated to those plants in Scotland called Bluebells – these are actually Harebells.

Popular nectar plant for bees, butterflies and hoverflies. Leaves provide food for autumnal and 6-striped rustic moths. Preferred food source for the Brimstone and Pearl Bordered Fritillary butterflies. Pollinated by long-tongued insects, such as bumblebees, and some hoverflies. Honeybees have short tongues and so have to steal the nectar by pushing apart the base of the petals.

Pliny said that Bluebells sprang from the blood of Ajax. Another legend dedicates the plant to Hyacinthus, who was loved by Apollo and Zephyrus, the god of the West wind. Hyacinthus, though (a lad, by the way), loved Apollo more and so Zephyrus killed the lad in jealousy. From his blood sprang Bluebells.

White juices from the stem make a useful glue. During the Middle Ages it was used to stick feathers on to arrows, and during Elizabethan times, it was used for laundry starch and glue.

Bluebell fields can be dangerous as they are full of fairies and concentrated magic. The flowers ring to summon fairies to midnight revelry. Anyone who wears a Bluebell is compelled to tell the truth. If you hear Bluebells ring you will soon die – thus they were known as Deadman’s Bells in Scotland.

It is important to make sure you plant true English Bluebells, and not the very invasive Spanish variety, which are a real threat to our native Bluebell populations. Spanish Bluebells are not really woodland plants are are more often found in open ground. Spanish Bluebell flowers are on one side of the stem, which is also thicker than that of an English Bluebell. English Bluebells have creamy-coloured pollen, others do not. English Bluebells have a strong, sweet smell and narrow tubular flowers with rolled back petals. Planting dry bulbs – Plant as soon as possible after receipt. If you can’t plant straightaway, store them in a mesh tray with sawdust or shredded newspaper to stop them going mouldy. They will also keep a bit longer if you store them in the fridge. For a more natural look, scatter the Bluebell bulbs and plant them where they land. Make sure they are planted to a good depth (about 4 inches). If you have any leaf mould plant them with some of that to imitate the natural woodland floor. Bluebells grown from seed take 2 – 3 years to flower.

In the green – plant asap! Bluebells in the green are planted January to May and have green leaves when planted. When planted later in their flowering period they may consist of the whole bulb, leaves and flowers. If you are not able to plant within a day of the bulbs arriving, temporarily plant them in trays or pots of compost until you can plant them out. They can be kept outside.