Bluebells for Sue

A friend of mine recently related that after clearing an area of blackberry and other weeds, she was delighted to find bulbs that someone had planted long ago.  I was so taken by this story that I’m planning to order bluebells to plant this fall under some trees in that new bed along our little dirt road.  I’m imagining that at least half of you reading this will recoil in horror and some of you may feel compelled to write or call and ask if I’m in my right mind.

It’s true – bluebells are great naturalizers OR invasive weeds, depending on your situation and point of view.  Though not on the state’s weed list (, bluebells quickly multiply by bulb offset as well as self sow, and often inspire the same kind of curses as garden rabbits.  After the flowers have faded, the strappy  foliage that lingers can crowd out less assertive plants and just look untidy.  The bulbs establish deep in the soil, so can be hard to remove.  If you cut back everything after bloom, you can decrease the vigor with which bluebells spread.

Bluebells make up for all of this by being, well, blue.  And for being deer and rabbit resistant, tolerating a fair amount of shade, being very hardy (zones 4-9) and persisting without care in our summer dry soils (as long as they get winter moisture, but not saturated).  Spanish bluebells, in particular will also do well in full sun.   Spanish bluebells / Hyacinthoides hispanica are taller, 10-14” with erect racemes of usually blue, but also white and pink unscented bells.  English bluebells / Hyacinthoides non-scripta, abundant in English oak and beech woodlands are shorter with nodding racemes of blue flowers.  The two species do cross and there is some concern in England that this may cause the demise of the native English bluebell.

Some sources indicate that the English bluebell is fragrant, so that’s what I’ll plant this fall.  I like to think that someday, after I, my house and maybe even most of the garden is gone, that the bluebells will still delight and surprise some passerby.

Spanish bluebells / Hyacinthoides hispanica

Haze of bluebells in an old Greenbank orchard


  1. Imagine my pleasant surprise when looking through your gardening journal to come across this familiar story. I’m touched. It is a nice feeling to know that maybe something we have created will remain to bring joy to someone else in the future. Sue

    Comment by Sue Fessenden — August 21, 2011 @ 1:31 am

  2. It’s a lovely thing about gardening – that we are connected to the past and the future and to each other.

    Comment by Deborah — August 21, 2011 @ 9:55 am

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