The wild bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, is a very graceful flower, arching at the tip with the bell-shaped flowers dangling on short fine stalks.

Usually the flowers hang to one side of the stem and this feature is a way of separating the true wild bluebell from the Spanish bluebell that is grown in gardens. The Spanish bluebell, Hyacinthoides hispanica, is much more robust in its structure than the wild bluebell, and double in size.

It has much broader leaves, twice as broad at least and straight stems and wider more open bells hanging on stiffer shorter talks all around the stem.

Usually it is of a lighter blue colour with stripes of dark blue. The wild bluebell has the tips of the petals rolled back more than the Spanish species.

The Spanish species is closer to a small hyacinth and this has caused the bluebells to be given various botanical names over the centuries - Hyacinth, Scilla, Endymion and Hyacinthoides, part of the lily family.

Garden use

In recent times, there has been concern that the Spanish bluebell has been hybridising with the native kind. Not that this the end of the world but if the wild bluebell were to end up as a hybrid, it would be a pity that such a dainty and lovely flower would be lost.

That might take a long time to happen and might never happen, but it would be a pity to lose such beauty or have it diluted.

This is worth bearing in mind if you intend to start off a spread of bluebells in the garden or in some piece of suitable woodland. The easiest way to do this is to collect seeds in summer and sow them immediately.

Within a few years a bluebell carpet will develop. If this is to be done it would be a good idea - if you want the wild true bluebell - to check the parent plants in flower for purity. If there are hybrids or some signs of Spanish ancestry, then do not spread that seed around.

Establishing bluebells

The ease of establishment from seed is the reason that some gardeners consider bluebells to be a weed. Of course, any plant can be a weed, and bluebells popping up in the wrong place can be a weed as much as any plant, especially if the bluebells pop up in the middle of low-growing flowers or rockery plants.

The seeds can find their way around a garden on tools or the wheels of a wheelbarrow or shoes. The round black seeds are freely produced but this can be prevented by pulling the flower heads off while the seeds are still green. This is possible for a small number of plants, not for large areas!

If you want to start a sweep of bluebells, take note of a seed source now and return in June and July to watch the development of the seed pods and as soon as they open, you can collect the seeds and scatter them immediately.

It is not legal to collect from wild sources but it might be possible to collect from bluebells on private property. The bulbs can be lifted and moved too but they are prone to drying out and must be planted right away, which is why they are not generally seen for sale.



All kinds of rhododendron are popular: small alpine kinds, Japanese rhododendrons, some of which are evergreen, others deciduous.

There are tree-like species from the Himalayas with the leaves more than 30cm long and large flowers almost the diameter of a football, and there are scores of hybrids of quality. And many colours exist: red, pink, white, yellow, blue, purple in myriad shades.

It is difficult, and of course not necessary, to choose a favourite from among this multitude, but one species that could be picked is Rhododendron cubittii.

Native to Burma, it is not considered fully hardy, but is much hardier than given credit for, and survive in most parts of the country.

Open to pure white from peach/pink buds, the large flowers are long-lasting and deliciously scented, which is not common among rhododendrons. The flower covered bush grows to about two metres each way and can easily be pruned if that is considered necessary.

This week

Trees, shrubs and roses

Tie in the new shoots of climbing roses so that they will be in the correct position for training later. Prune early summer shrubs as they go out of flower, if necessary. It is best to thin out shrubs rather than shorten back every branch.


Grass growth has picked up after a slow start. Most lawns are showing good colour and growth and not need any feeding, even if you are so inclined. As the flowers appear, trim the edges around flower beds or borders to keep grass tidy and neat.


Bedding plants can be planted in the milder areas. Water the young plants immediately after planting out and every few days, in the absence of heavy rain, until they are actively growing. A liquid feed can be given and watch out for slugs and snails.

Greenhouse and house plants

Plant out greenhouse tomatoes, chilli peppers, cucumbers and sweet peppers as soon as possible. In many cases it is not always possible to do this until other plants such as sweet corn and bedding plants have been planted out and space is created.

Fruit, vegetables and herbs

Make repeat sowings of lettuce, peas, carrots and the quick maturing salad vegetables. Thin out vegetables that have reached suitable size, and control weeds early. Weed growth is strong at the moment. Sow winter cauliflower and cabbage varieties.

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