Bluebells ringing

Now is the time for a walk through the bluebells.

Words: James Alexander-Sinclair

This is the Bluebell moment.

All over this country (and bits of Northern Europe) bits of deciduous woodland have transformed from their dour winter aspect to full on, brightly plumaged wonders of spring.

Yup, the bluebells are flowering and you should get yourself out there as a gentle walk through a bluebell wood is something guaranteed to give springs to your heels and a generally beneficent view of your fellow man.

These are the proper English bluebells: Hyacinthus non-scripta , aka Endymion non-scriptus. I have no idea why there is a gender change although, interestingly, both Botanical names spring from Greek mythology. Hyacinthus was a fearfully handsome Greek who was killed while trying to catch a flying discus (not a frightfully clever thing to do) in order to impress his lover, Apollo. Endymion was also devastatingly good looking and had an affair with Selene (the moon) who bore him fifty daughters.

It is a perfect woodland plant, scented and delicate although quite invasive so probably best not to be so captivated that you decide to introduce them into your borders. They reproduce by seed and by sending out runners from which new bulbs sprout - they have to be pretty savvy to carpet woods so effectively. Imagine that in your garden and you can appreciate that they would swiftly become unwelcome. If this warning comes too late then your only option is to dig them out but having done so do not compost them until they have sat in a bin bag for at least a year as otherwise you will just promulgate the problem.

Neither should you be taken in by the Spanish interloper (H.hispanica) which is a much larger, more aggressive variety that tends to muscle its way in amongst our native bluebells. You can tell the difference as the flowers are bigger, paler and the pollen is blue, not white.

In short, unless you have a bit of woodland then bluebells are best appreciated away from home. Here is our list of five great bluebell woods to visit. Do it soon….

  • Hackfall, Masham, North Yorkshire. Wild woods, grottoes, follies and a fountain. More information in Camilla Swift’s article for intoGardens.
  • Coton Manor, Coton, Northamptonshire Not just woodlands but a great garden, nursery and restaurant.
  • Blickling, Norfolk A National Trust property with fabulous woodland walks and seven cottages to rent if you want to make it a weekend visit.
  • Arlington Bluebell Walk, Polegate, east Sussex BN26 6SH Spectacular walk with the added bonus of a fine farm shop selling high quality local produce.
  • Coed Cefn, Abergavenny A Welsh hilltop run by the woodland trust. Good circular path through mature beech, oak and sycamore.