Scilla – Bluebell

The common bluebell or Wild Hyacinth being the species most familiar to Britain, we know of the intense late-spring colouring of this lovely plant. Of extreme hardiness and requiring partial shade and a soil containing as much leaf mould as possible there is little in the cultivation of these typically English plants that need worry us. But it is perhaps due to the fact that they are found growing so widespread in their natural haunts that the many lovely species are not planted more lavishly.

Like the Leucojum and several other plants, it is not generally known that there is a species of the Scilla that will bloom in October, whilst several come into bloom about March 1st. It is therefore possible to enjoy a succession of colour with the exception of the mid-winter period when Galanthus Elwesii and Cyclamen coum can be relied upon to bridge the gap until Scilla Tubergeniana comes intoScilla - Bluebell bloom towards the end of February. No position does a scilla enjoy more than when planted under deciduous trees in short grass, for there its bulbs will be kept cool throughout the warmest days and yet the flowers will be able to enjoy the late spring sunshine whilst receiving some protection from cold winds.

PLANTING

Being inexpensive the scillas should be planted in drifts and there is no better method of planting than removing a series of turves and planting the bulbs 2-3 in. deep and the same distance apart. Mix plenty of leaf mould or peat into the soil should this not be present naturally.

The bulbs are best planted in grass which will not be cut until the foliage has died down late in summer Unlike the crocus and snowdrop which finishes in early May when the lawn may be cut without harming the bulbs, the scillas will only just be in full bloom and so are not suitable for lawn planting.

There is little need for frequent lifting, though to increase the more expensive and choice varieties, lifting and dividing the bulbs just previous to the decaying of the foliage will quickly increase one’s stock.

For home or cold greenhouse, several species are very suitable. The best are Scilla siberica and S. verna, the former being the most appreciated in that it will bloom indoors in late February. The bulbs should be planted early in September and they are best planted round a deep seed pan or large shallow bowl. At all times they must be gown cool otherwise they will become drawn and lanky and make too much long leaf. The pots should be removed to a cold frame or taken to the window of a cool room early in December. As with daffodils, it may be necessary to give the stems and leaves some support by placing wires or thin green sticks amongst the foliage as soon as the blooms are showing colour.

SPECIES

  • Scilla bifolia. Very dwarf, producing its bright blue sprays on but 4-in, stems between two leaves of an almost bronze colour. Flowering in March it increases rapidly. Should be planted with snowdrops which will enhance the beauty of each contrasting colour. In sheltered districts of Devon and Cornwall will come into bloom late in January. The variety S. rosea is equally attractive.
  • S. hispanica. The Spanish bluebell, in habit and flowering-time like our native nutans, may also be obtained in several lovely colours. Flowering in May, it is ideal in almost complete shade.
  • S. nutans. The bluebell of the woods, and for its unique purple-blue colouring is unsurpassed for garden display and cutting. The white and shell pink forms should be planted as contrasting colours.
  • S. peruviana. Quite an amazing member of the family producing its rich blue lily-like flowers in June. Though having the appearance of a hot-house plant, this scilla is as hardy as the others and should be given the same cultural treatment. Must be given a light, well-drained soil.
  • S. pratensis. Produces flowering spikes of indigo-blue during April and May and seems to flourish on a rockery scree where it can be left undisturbed for years.
  • S. siberica. From the northern shores of Russia and a superb bluebell for massing under trees. Produces its brilliant blue flowers during March and is of dainty, dwarf habit. The white form, S. alba, if planted with the blue form, will create an outstanding display. Grows only 4 in. tall and is ideal for pot culture.
  • Scilla Tubergeniana. From Persia and a beauty for pot culture, the species being stocky and of a beautiful turquoise blue colour. Each bulb will throw an average of four spikes. An ideal plant for the rockery or window-box, flowering early in March.

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