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Bluebell Bulbs

Useful Info And History For The Home Gardener



NATIVE BULBS

Although some people argue that when seeking to arrange a splendid garden the most outlandish species should be combined in order to provide uniqueness, there is an ineffable loveliness in plants which are native to Britain and have adorned meadows, woodlands and riversides for centuries or even millennia. After all, the love and dedication to growing ornamental plants has its origins in observing them unfold their natural beauty in the wild. Completing the ancestral connection preserved by our natural surroundings, they have been the focus of tales, legends and surprising uses over the years, and thus have themselves become a part of history.

This section contains plants found growing freely in the wild, in a range of natural settings such as woodlands, seashore grasslands, pastures, hillsides and so forth, presenting their growing requirements in accurate detail. Noticeably, some species can be spotted across the whole of Europe and even farther, yet have developed distinctive traits here and are usually found in abundance in a specific area, probably where climatic conditions are more auspicious. Due to their acclimatisation, which dates back centuries even for plants originally brought from abroad and naturalised, eager growers should have no problem accommodating these species and obtaining the best possible results.

Among them are plants which have in the past been used (or are still being used by homeopathic medicine) for medicinal purposes, as well as species which have been used for ceremonial purposes in specific rituals. Akin to any permanent element of a particular environment, they have been linked to legends and other types of folklore, and have been intensely celebrated in artistic creations, such as literature and visual arts. Moreover, certain species have been and are still used as cooking ingredients, even if their use is considered eccentric and not embraced by large numbers of people. There is an undeniable dose of symbolism and romanticism associated with them, which will have a bearing on creating a unique feeling in your garden.

Every species is named below in English, botanical Latin and Welsh.

Native Bluebell Hyacinthoides non-scripta – Clychau’r Glas

Flowering: April, June

Growing freely in Britain’s woodlands since times immemorial, the Bluebell is a small, dainty flower with intense blue petals forming a nodding bell-shaped bloom. It spreads on large patches, creating splendid views, and is also renowned for its fragrance, which makes it distinct from scentless species originating from other parts of Europe. Historically, it has also been referred to as the Jacinth, a name dating back to the Elizabethan era. It has been known to produce many hybrids with naturalised variations brought from abroad, which generally lack the fragrance of the native British species. As it is a woodland plant, it grows optimally in cool, well shaded places.

DaffodilNarcissus pseudonarcissus – Blodyn Mis Mawrth

Flowering: March, April

Although there are dozens of daffodil species and hybrids across Britain, this is by far the most commonly encountered in the wild, a fragrant bloom composed of an intensely yellow elongated trumpet and delicate paler petals on a long stem. In height, it ranges between 8 and 12 inches, which classes it as a medium sized daffodil. It can be seen growing freely in grassland and woods, in rural and urban areas alike. It first flowers quite early in the season, in March, and lasts well into the following month.

Tenby DaffodilNarcissus obvallaris

Origin: Tenby (Dyfed)

Flowering: March, April

A variety which can grow up to 12 inches in height, it is native and said to be exclusive to an area near Tenby, which is why this flower is symbolic for Wales. Nonetheless, it has been spotted in the wild in two other regions as well, namely Carmarthenshire and Ceredigion. In March it unfolds its lovely golden petals, needing little supplementary maintenance and naturalising optimally.

SnowdropGalanthus nivalis –Liliwen Fach (Eirlys)

Origin: Wales

Flowering: January, February, March

Known to prefer shaded patches and moist soils, this species is believed to have originated in Wales and can be found in all parts of Britain, as well as other European countries. It is seen as an emblem of spring as it’s among the first flowers to announce its arrival, developing, flowering and surviving in low temperatures. It can reach a maximum of six inches in height and has delicate white petals as well as a subtle fragrance.

Double Snowdrop Galanthus nivalis flore pleno

Flowering: January, February, March

This is the double variation of the snowdrop and besides boasting a richer bloom, it is known to sometimes flower earlier than the archetypal snowdrop. It adapts equally well to all soils and is suitable for naturalising either by planting its bulbs or in green, the first option being recommend as optimal.

Snakes Head FritillaryFritillaria meleagris – Britheg

Origin: Southern England

Flowering: April, May

Its ideal habitat includes soils with plenty moisture, such as those of the pastures of southern England, where it can sometimes be found in the wild. Its chromatic combination is delightful and complex, ranging from purple and red to cream and featuring different patterns. It flowers in mid season, in April, and can reach up to 10 inches in height. Aside from a constant need of humidity, it also prefers full sunlight exposure.

Fritillaria meleagris alba

Origin: Southern England

Flowering: April, May

The white variation of the native British fritillary, it requires the same conditions for optimal development. It has always been deemed a beautiful, dainty flower and can be found in the wild in larger numbers than its multi-coloured variant. It grows well in full sun but also partial shade.

Star of BethlehemOrnithogalum umbellatum – Seren Bethlehem

Origin: Eastern England

Flowering: April, May

Flowering in mid season, this plant develops a charming bloom, its shape reminiscent of a star, hence its name. It grows freely in many parts of the world and partly owes its name to its medieval use as nourishment by pilgrims on their way to the Holy Land, since its bulbs are actually edible. Today however it no longer has the same use and is cultivated for its ornamental qualities. Although in Britain it can only be found in the wild in a specific part of England, probably due to the milder climate, it does naturalise well, requiring a maintained level of moisture throughout the year.

Bath Asparagus -Ornithogalum pyrenaicum - Seren Bethlehem Hir

Origin: Bath

Flowering: June, July

Its name derives from the area of its prominence, which located near Bath, although it can be found in the wild in other parts of the country as well. Besides being grown for decorative purposes, it is also used for cooking, as a variation of asparagus.

Wild TulipTulipa sylvestris

Origin: Britain (questioned)

Flowering: April, May, June

Resembling the garden tulip in terms of appearance, this plant is predominantly found growing in the eastern and central parts of Britain. In April it produces conspicuous, silky yellow blooms and perfumes its surrounding area with a delicate fragrance. In terms of height, it can reach up to 10 inches. Although it’s classed as a native species, its precise origin is debatable, as some believe it has been brought from mainland Europe and naturalised.

Spring SnowflakeLeucojum vernum

Origin: Dorset, Somerset

Flowering: March, April

A small and gracious plant ranging between 6 and 8 inches in height, it produces a nodding bloom much like that of a snowdrop, the tips of its petals showing a tinge of green and the shape of the bloom more evocative of a bell. A common sight in Europe, in Britain it only grows naturally in a few distinct areas. Regarding ideal growing conditions, the Spring Snowflake thrives in damp soils and partial shade.

Summer SnowflakeLeucojum aestivum – Eiriaidd – Gravetye Giant

Origin: Southern England (questioned)

Flowering: April, May

Blooming late in the season, this plant produces a charming white flower and is associated with the banks of the River Loddon in southern England, where it has been found in large numbers. It is known to prefer a large level of humidity, thriving in moist soils and even swamp-like environments. Its exact provenience and whether it truly is native to Britain has not been established beyond doubt to this day.

Spring SquillScilla verna – Seren y Gwanwyn

Origin: The British Isles

Flowering: May, June

Resembling other squill species found across Europe, this variety produces small star-shaped flowers of intense blue and ranges between 2 and 4 inches in height, blooming late in the season. It thrives in well-drained soils and is most frequently spotted in the British Isles, although in other parts of Britain as well. Their leaves inconspicuously blend in with the grass, which they greatly resemble, which makes the plat difficult to spot outside the flowering season.

Autumn SquillScilla autumnalis – Seren yr Hydref

Origin: The southern British Isles

Flowering: July, August, September

Similar in appearance and behaviour to the Spring Squill, this plant flowers a few months later, from July to September. It is also fond of seaside environments, where it grows plentifully among the grass, it is particularly associated with short coastal turf. It is however exclusive to the southern part of England, probably for climate-related reasons.

Grape HyacinthMuscari neglectum

Origin: Eastern England (questioned)

Flowering: April

With its exact origins still subject to debate and some arguing the species is not native to Britain but was introduced at some point in history instead, it remains equally pleasant and ideal for naturalising. Its dark blue flowers, which develop in mid season, are elongated and vertical, whilst the type of soil can vary as long as it is well-drained.

RamsonsAllium ursinum

Origin: The British Isles

Flowering: April, May

Also referred to as ‘’wild garlic’’, this species produces lovely white flowers and grows up to 9 inches tall, preferring shady woodlands and humid soils. Its bulbs and leaves are sometimes used as cooking ingredients (leaves more often than bulbs), yet that is far from common practice at the moment and its use is mainly ornamental. It can be found in the wild across the British Isles.

Round Headed LeekAlium sphaerocephalon

Flowering: June, July

An excellent decorative plant which can be used in arrangements well after its death, by drying its blooms, it develops a lovely drumstick-shaped cluster of violet flowers which last well through the summer season. Reaching two feet in height, it is considered optimal for many landscaping ideas.

Chives Allium Schoenoprasum var anglicum – Seifys

Flowering: May, June, July, August

A lovely variation of the cooking herb commonly used across Britain, it is very distinct in appearance due to its curly leaves, rendering the association difficult to make without proper expertise. It has lovely crimson flowers and is appreciated due to its distinctiveness.

Wild Leek Allium ampeloprasum var babinigtonii – Garlleg Mawr Pengrwn

Origin: South Wales, Cornwall, the British Isles

Flowering: June, July

A species beleieved to predate the common leek, it resembles it in appearance and cultivation requirements and produces clusters of small flowers. It thrives in seaside environments and rocky areas. Its purple flowers have excellent ornamental qualities.

Wood AnemoneAnemone nemorosa - Blodyn Gwynt

Flowering: March, April, May

A widespread woodland plant with dainty white flowers, it comes it has evolved into many varieties over the centuries and is very well loved by growers. Its long rich leaves are evocative of ferns. Akin to many woodland varieties, is grows ideally in the shade and in moist soils, which is why it is suitable for hedgerows and to be planted under trees. It is also referred to as the Windflower.

Anemone nemorosa robinsoniana

Flowering: March, April, May

This variety is identical to the archetypal wood anemone, aside from the colour of its blossoms, which is a charming pale lavender blue. A fast growing plant, it thrives in moist, well-drained soils, but can tolerate drier soils outside its growing season. As for sunlight exposure, it prefers partial shade and grows well under deciduous trees.

Anemone nemorosa Allenii

Flowering: March, April, May

Boasting sizeable shiny blue flowers, this variety was grown by Somerset cultivator James Allan, who its name being a tribute to his horticultural achievements during the 19th Century. It reaches 8 inches in height and its blooms are deep blue. It grows optimally in partial shade or full shade.

Anemone nemorosa Vestal

Flowering: March, April, May

Akin to other anemone varieties, this superb species grows well in partial shade. Flowering later in the season than similar varieties, this species grows richer corollas, with a larger number of petals, all white. It is clomp-forming and ideal for many landscaping functions.

Anemone nemorosa Virescens

Flowering: March, April, May

This very special variety is easily recognised by the replacement of its blossoms with a bunch of green leaflets, being the only anemone variety which evolves in this manner, completely replacing petals. This plant can be propagated by seed or rhizomes.

Anemone nemorosa Bracteata Pleniflora

Flowering: March, April, May

This species is partially similar to Anemone nemorosa Virescens; however it develops both petals and green leaflets in a very particular arrangement. It develops beautiful white petals in semi-double flowers, whilst its tepals usually feature a white variegation.

Lesser CelandineRanunculus ficaria – Llygad Ebrill

Flowering: March, April

With its golden petals forming a symmetrical display resembling the shape of a star, this variety is often spotted in woodlands or other areas auspicious to its development. It blossoms early in the season and looks fresh for a long time. Its shiny, rounded leaves are also very attractive and overall the plant creates the illusion of a wild setting.

Winter AconiteEranthys hyemalis – Bleidd-dag y Gaeaf

Origin: Europe

Flowering: August, September, October

Brought from mainland Europe, it has naturalised very well and can be seen growing freely in many areas, particularly the British Isles. It develops beautiful golden blooms , its corollas elegantly surrounded by light green bracts. A perennial species, it grows up to 10 cm in height.

Monk’s HoodAconitum napellus – Cwcwll y Mynach

Origin: South-west England, South Wales

Flowering: June, July, August

At its finest when growing on river or stream banks, this variety loves rich organic soils and dampness, as well as shade, and that is why it thrives in the south-west of Britain, where it can reach a height of 5 feet. Blossoming during the summer season, it boasts elongated, pointy flowers of a pleasant shade of navy blue. It actually has a long history in Wales, as it was once used for medicinal purposes in medieval times –erroneously however as it is in fact poisonous.

Turk’s Cap LilyLilium martagon – Llysiau Martagon

Origin: Southern Britain

Flowering: June, July

Found in woodlands and other shaded areas across Britain, particularly in the south, this is a multi-coloured variety with gently blowing flowers displaying shades of pink and lilac, contrasting with much darker spots.It is a summer season flowerer and preferred by many growers for its elegant charm.

White Turk’s Cap Lily - Lilium martagon album

Origin: Southern Britain

Flowering: June, July

This variety blooms in the same elegant manner as the Turk’s Cap Lily, the only difference being that its petals are pure white. It prefers a moist but well-dried soil, rich in organic matter, as well as full sunlight exposure. Its foliage remains green during the spring and summer season.

Pyrenean LilyLilium pyrenaicum – Cap y Twrc Melyn

Origin: South-western England, South-western Wales

Flowering: June, July

Most frequently seen adorning hedgerows in south-western Britain, this variety, as its name suggests, is of foreign provenience yet has naturalised very well and is now regarded as a native species. It is brightly coloured, adjoining yellow petals with black spots and red anthers, a mixture which creates a vibrant, eye-catching contrast.

Lilly of the ValleyConvallaria majalis – Clych Enid

Flowering: May, June

A very popular plant throughout the whole of Britain and the rest of Europe, it develops white, bell-shaped fragrant flowers surrounded by large oval leaves of a deep green. Its flowers bow gracefully in the wind. It is commonly referred to by many other names such as Lady’s Tears, May Lily or Conval Lily. It flowers late in the season, at the beginning of summer.

Pink Lilly of the Valley - Convallaria majalis var rosea

Flowering: May, June

This graceful variety has been gown in Britain for hundreds of years, being structurally identical to Convallaria majalisbut differing in colour, which, as the name suggests, is a pale mauve pink. It also flowers between May and June. Like its white variety, this species also thrives in low light, in partial or full shade.

Solomon’s SealPolygonatum x multiflorum – Sel Solomon

Flowering: April, May, June

The mysterious name of this variety, which is structurally similar to Convallaria majalis, has its explanation in the shape on the leaf scars seen on its tuber , which are said to be evocative of certain Hebrew characters. It is much taller however, its height ranging between two and three feet. It produces multiple nodding flowers per stem, their white corollas being renowned for their beauty.

Sweet Scented Solomon’s SealPolygonatum odoratum

Origin: England, Wales

Flowering: April, May, June

A miniature variety of Solomon’s Seal, this species reaches a maximum of 12 inches. It bears this name due to its strong sweet fragrance, reminiscent of vanilla flowers. Every stem supports one or two rows of flowers. This plant grows well in rocky environments as well as shaded woodlands, and blooms in mid season.

Lords and LadiesArum maculatum – Pidyn y Gog

Flowering: May, June

A beautiful feature in the wild, it can bring the feel of wilderness into any garden, with its hooded blooms and spotted leaves, flowering late in the season, at the end of spring. Moreover, it produces attractive berries, which enhance the woodland aesthetical effect. This species grows well with limited and dim sunlight exposure, thus in partial or total shade.

Herb ParisParis quadrifolia – Cwlwm Cariad

Flowering: May, June

Another native bulb developing optimally in the shade and typically encountered in woodlands across the country, this plant generates a beautiful arrangement of a single bright yellow bloom and four symmetrically placed leaves. What is particular about it is its aphrodisiac potential, as it is sometimes used towards that purpose, which has also resulted in its name, evocating romance.

Meadow Saffron or Autumn CrocusColchium autumnale – Saffrwm y Gweunydd

Origin: Southern Britain

Flowering: September, October

A delightful plant blooming in autumn, it produces pastel mauve flowers, whilst its leaves, also aesthetically valuable, develop during the spring season. This species can sometimes be found in the wild in the southern part of the country, yet not too often nowadays, as it was nearly eradicated in previous times due to the poison it contains. It is completely unrelated to the plant species its name refers to (saffron and crocus), yet equally enjoyable.

White Meadow Saffron or White Autumn Crocus - Colchium autumnale var album

Origin: Southern Britain

Flowering: September, October

This is the white variation of Colchium autumnale, and therefore, aside from its white corolla, bears the same characteristics, is found in the same type of natural environment and requires the same conditions for optimal growing (mainly a warmer climate, although a temperate one is ideal, as it needs cold winters). It also produces a rich corolla, its flowers arising directly from the ground.