Flowering this week – bluebells and blue lachenalias

Bluebells (more correctly hyacinthoides, used to be scillas and even endymion)

Bluebells (more correctly hyacinthoides, used to be scillas and even endymion)

Wordsworth waxed lyrical over his sea of golden daffodils (long finished here and hardly a sea) but it is the haze of bluebells that is pleasing us this week. The desirable bluebell is the English one, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, which is scented and less inclined to be as over enthusiastic as the larger growing Spanish one (H. hispanica). But they are reportedly struggling to keep H. non-scripta pure in the UK and odds on what we have here are various Spanglish forms of natural hybrids. Bluebells also come in pink and white although they do not then become Pinkbells or Snowbells. The other colours have some novelty value, but for large scale drifts you can’t beat the beautiful blue. In the UK where their woodland is far more open than our forest, it is hard to surpass the romantic sight of a copse of white barked birches with a blue carpet below. Here we have to naturalise on the margins where there is sufficient light but the bulbs are not competing with full on grass cover which overwhelms everything.

If you really want to sort out the origin of your bluebells, the English ones have cream anthers whereas the Spanish ones always have blue anthers. Apparently. Presumably if you have both blue anthers and cream anthers in your patch, you have Spanglish bluebells. And in case you are too embarrassed to ask what an anther it, it is the pollen bit on the end of the stamen in the centre of the flower.

Probably lachenalia orchioides var. glaucina

Probably lachenalia orchioides var. glaucina

Bluebells are easy to naturalise and have a simple charm. Blue lachenalias take considerably more effort to build up and are much fussier about position, but have a great deal more status value. We find mutabilis is the easiest of the blue lachenalias, bur orchioides var. glaucina is showier. Over the years we have collected as many different blue and lilac lachenalias as we can find but they tend to be a little promiscuous and it is likely that we now have the species mixed. We certainly have the labels mixed. The blues flower later, are more frost tender and somewhat fussier than some of easier red, orange and yellow forms (aloides, reflexa, bulbifera and the like).