SCILLA Bluebell Squill

Bluebells are a common springtime sight in both woodland and gardens. Upright stems above strap-like leaves bear drooping flowers – bells or stars in shades of blue. But not all Scillas are the same – there are winter-flowering dwarfs for the rockery and the traditional Bluebells under trees, around shrubs or naturalised in short grass. These Bluebells flower in mid spring – for early summer flowering choose the Cuban Lily. Thus both height and flowering season cover a wide range, and so does flower colour – there is white, pink and purple as well as the familiar blue. Most Scillas are easy to grow – they can be left in the ground to spread into large clumps over the years and only the Cuban Lily needs a cover of peat, ashes or leaves as winter protection. The only thing you have to remember is that the bulbs are susceptible to decay when out of the soil. Always plant as soon as possible after purchase.

VARIETIES: The earliest and smallest Squill is S. tubergeniana – spacing 3 in., height 3 in.

Flowering period: February-March. The flowers are pale blue with dark blue stripes – clearly a close relative of Puschkinia . The place for this species is amongst the Snowdrops and Winter Aconites. A lovely display in late winter, but the favourite early-flowering Squill is another one – S. sibirica (Siberian or Spring Squill). The basic details are spacing 4 in., height 6 in.

Flowering period: March-April. Therearewhiteand pale blue forms but to see the Siberian Squill at its best you should pick the bright blue ‘Spring Beauty’. Another useful early-flowering Squill is S. bifolia which bears deep blue stars in March on 6 in. stems. The best known species is, of course, our native English Bluebell. It has other common names, such as Wild Hyacinth, and a host of latin names – S. nonscripta, S. nutans, Hyacinthus nonscriptus and Endymion nonscriptus. An unfortunate mouthful, but any one of them may appear in the catalogues. Details are spacing 4 in., height 9 in.

Flowering period: April-June. Flowering at the same time is the larger Giant Bluebell (S.campanulata or Endymion hispanicus). Excellent blue, pink and white varieties are available. Last of all in the blooming league comes S. peruviana (Cuban Lily) – spacing 6 in., height 1 ft.

Flowering period: May-June, when clusters of pale blue flowers appear.

SITE AND SOIL: Any well-drained, moist soil will do – thrives in sun or light shade.

PLANT DETAILS: Planting time August-September. Planting depth 4 in. See above for other details.

PROPAGATION: Divide overcrowded clumps in August or September – replant at once.

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