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Bluebells Spring 2023 (screenshot of Nancy gazette pic).jpg

Head Gardener Report


Spring 2023

We have spent a great deal of time this year “creating space” in the Garden, a necessary but unwelcome task involving removal of several diseased rhododendrons that have been a defining feature for manyyears and the highlight of the spring bloom season.


But as work progressed we began to appreciate the fresh perspective that opening up created, and to see, and really look at,things we had either not been aware of before, or dismissed as “ordinary”or “ubiquitous”, or worse, “stuck with”.

One such plant truly came into its own this year thanks to increased sunlight in formerly shady spots, creating a sparkling carpet of glorious color in early May reflecting the deep azure of the frequently cloudless sky we've been blessed with this spring (once the rain finally stopped). Commonly known as

the bluebell, this formerly overlooked and frequently maligned perennial bulb is my choice for “Flower of the Month” for May.

The bluebell has an ancient and complex history that has given rise to a variety of botanical names including Endymion, Scilla, and is currently known as Hyacinthoides. The bluebells growing in Connie's garden appear to be what is now known as Hyacinthoides hispanica or Spanish bluebell, also known as Scilla campanulata (or S. hispanica) and Endymion hispanicus. Another common name for these are Wood Hyacinths. They are a vigorously spreading perennial bulb originally native to southern Europe, may also come in pinks and whites, are unscented and bear bell-shaped blooms all around the flower stems.

To further complicate things, the traditional bluebell of lore and legend, the English Bluebell, is actually another member of the same genus and known as Hyacinthoides non-scripta. It is native to northern Europe and has become known for populating ancient English woodlands and hedgerows, and for its

association with fairy rings, witchcraft and folklore. The fragrant flower is borne on one side of the slender, nodding stem and is a rich violet blue, deeper in color than its close cousin the Spanish bluebell.

When planted in proximity to the Spanish bluebell it is liable to cross, thus adding to the general confusion. Regrettably, H. non-scripta is now considered a threatened species in Britain due to the proliferation of H. hispanica whose vigorous growth out-competes its more delicate relative.

In a woodland garden setting, in partial shade to mostly full sun, these ridiculously easy to grow bulbs will naturalize readily and provide sweeps of welcome color for a few weeks in mid spring. The only maintenance required will be to manage their spread into more formal areas. Look for bulbs in fall bulb catalogs.

Priscilla Patterson

Head Gardener, CHG

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