There is nothing quite like the sight of an English woodland full of Bluebells. Deciduous trees with fresh lime green leaves unfurling with a carpet of deep blue flowers so beautiful it takes your breath away. There’s patches of sunshine with ferns unfurling and dappled shade with mossy fallen trees. Bluebell woods are usually full of wildlife making the most of the early supply of nectar and pollen. Look closely and you’ll see bees and butterflies and wild birds taking advantage of the glut of insect life to feed their young. I was lucky enough to visit Bluebell Cottage gardens yesterday where the Bluebell Wood is in full bloom right now. If you know of woodland in your location where there are Bluebells then the end of April and beginning of May is usually the best time to see them in full flower. Times vary slightly from year to year depending on the weather conditions.

What’s the difference between English Bluebells and Spanish Bluebells?
English Bluebell
 Hyacinthoides non-scripta

  • The English Bluebell is deep blue.
  • Flowers are narrow, bell shaped and strongly recurved.
  • All the flowers are on the same side of the stalk.
  • They have creamy white pollen.
  • English bluebells have a strong honey like scent.
  • When the flowers are open the stalk curves downwards giving the Bluebells their characteristic nodding appearance.

Hybrid Bluebell Hyacinthoides x massartiana
(cross between Spanish Bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica and the British Bluebell Hyacinthodes non-scripta)

  • Spanish/Hybrid Bluebells are light blue or pink or white.
  • Flowers are wide and bell shaped curling back only slightly.
  • Flowers are produced all around the stalk.
  • When the flowers are open the stalk stays erect.
  • They have blue or pale green pollen.
  • Spanish bluebells have little or no scent.

All the photos above were taken yesterday in the Bluebell Wood at Bluebell Cottage Gardens.  There’s free entry to the wood, plant nursery and tearoom and it’s £3.50 to look around the garden (Gardener’s World 2 for 1 card accepted and RHS Members free)

The photos below were all taken in my own garden.

You can grow our wild English Bluebells and Spanish Bluebells in your garden however I’m offering a word of caution here… please be aware that they can spread rapidly and may quickly become a nuisance in small spaces spreading quickly through borders. I recommend them only for large gardens. If you are happy to allow them to naturalise then they will grow well under any deciduous trees, especially Oak and Beech.

In my own garden there is a mix of English and Spanish Bluebells. From what we know about the area there was a wood here long ago. I’ve inspected the plants closely and I believe that some of our Bluebells are British natives. But many of them are hybrids and it’s too late for me to do anything about that now. We know that the previous land owner planted Spanish Bluebells because she liked the pink ones. They are lovely but must be kept in a garden situation… NOT planted in the wild because they easily cross with our natives.

I hope this has helped you determine if your Bluebells are English or Spanish. They are both lovely!

Thanks for reading and Happy Gardening. Gillian


15 thoughts on “Bluebells

  1. I love to see bluebells and that is one of the things I really miss living here in Italy. In past years we have often been in England for my MIL’s birthday but now I no longer have that excuse. BTW, the sweetpeas you so generously sent me have begun to flower. They are deliciously scented, thank you again.

    1. Bluebell Woods really are one of the most beautiful sights… I can understand why you miss them Chistina. Delighted your Sweet Peas are flowering and wishing you a very happy and flowery 2017!

  2. Gillian I love the photos of the British Bluebell with its intense blue color. But I also really like the photos taken in your garden, with a mix of English and Spanish. I did not know they were so invasive. What he did know was the abundance of wild creatures they drew. In their garden they are precious. Greetings from Margarita.

  3. I agree, Gillian, and wish bluebell woods would be a common thing to mainland Europe but they aren’t…but I’m working on it! 😉

    1. Good for you Annette, I wish you every success. It seems that where there are really ancient Beech woods there are masses of Bluebells here. Perhaps they need specific conditions to get going but once they are established they do very well indeed.

  4. Your pictures are beautiful! I have to say, that close up of the English Bluebells has me turning green with envy.

    I planted some Spanish (I think) bluebells the year before last, but they didn’t bloom. According to the catalogue, they should grow in this zone. I got leaves and nothing else. It’s still too cold (-2 this morning) to see what will happen this year. As with all things gardening, hope springs eternal!

  5. These are gorgeous photos! I have Spanish and hybrids all over my garden but they are beginning to die back now as it’s been so dry in Wiltshire. I love the way the English ones droop over and they are such a gorgeous colour. Lovely post. Thank you.

    1. Thanks very much for your lovely comment Sophie. It’s true that Bluebells don’t last long but they are amazing whilst they last aren’t they?

  6. Such beautiful photos Gillian! I love the sparkly raindrops on them. Just stunning! I really miss growing spring bulbs in the garden but I shall just enjoy yours instead!
    Kate xx

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