Bluebell walks across Britain are, sadly, bereft of visitors — but we're still celebrating these joyous spring flowers.
It wouldn’t quite be true to say that I can look out of my window and see bluebells as I type these words. But it would be true to say that if I stand up, and peer down at the front garden from my makeshift bedroom desk set-up, there they all are: some deepest, cornflower blue; others lilac; a few white ones in there as well.
Normally, this time of year would see the family heading out to one of the nearby bluebell hotspots — Winkworth Arboretum is usually top of our list — to enjoy this seasonal burst of colour on the woodland floor.
This year, however, the ones in the front garden, and any we can see on daily exercise walks, are as close as we can get.
We shouldn’t take them for granted: over half the world’s bluebells are in the UK, thriving particularly in shady, ancient woodland.
That being the case, we thought it might be a good idea to share some beautiful bluebell images for those who can’t get out to see any at all; and we were convinced beyond doubt when Country Life reader Sam Gwillym sent us this picture of her springer spaniel, Lilly, during a walk in Oversley Woods (near Alcester in Warwickshire):
It seems that the National Trust have had a similar idea — and they’ve collated archive pictures and video footage to share.
Among the treasures is what they describe as a ‘slow TV’ video, which… well, rather than us describe it, we’ll just pop this here:
They also sent a few tips on ‘how to grow bluebells’ by — and this really is a coincidence — the head gardener at Winkworth, Graham Alderton:
- Be patient: Bluebells grown from seed can take a few years to grow to maturity, so it may be five years before you get a flower. For a quicker result you can buy dry bulbs to plant in the Autumn, or get holdof pots of bluebells ‘in the green’ i.e. currently flowering or just finished, which many gardeners believe will have a better chance of getting established. If you try this, plant them at the same depth as they were used to, let them die back naturally, and don’t be surprised if you just get leaves in year one.
- Go native: When buying bluebells, make sure that you’re buying native English bluebells — which have a characteristic, drooping-over look — rather than the invasive Spanish or hybrid varieties. Try to avoid hybridisation at home, too: if the neighbours have Spanish or hybrid bluebells take care that yours don’t get cross-pollinated.
- Stay shady: Bluebells are woodland plants, so they grow best in partial shade with moist but well-drained soil. Plant them in clumps under deciduous trees and feed with leaf mould, manure or peat-free compost.
And finally, we’ll leave you with the joys of Arlington Bluebell Walk in East Sussex, who sent in some beautiful pictures of their sadly-empty walk, taken for them by photographer Peter Goldsmith:
We round up the best gardens to visit to see carpets of bluebells this spring and explain how to tell