Sunday, December 18, 2016

Spanish Bluebells

(As in the previous post-- and at least one more to follow-- the photos are unrelated the content of the post.  They're just some snaps from around the yard, within the past week or so.)

Purple Coneflower
{Purple coneflower}
If you read as much English literature as I have (and still do), you can't easily avoid hearing all about bluebells-- their fresh, ephemeral beauty, their heavenly fragrance, their graceful presence in the English woodland every spring.  The English bluebell (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) is a national treasure, though it has been somewhat fetishized (if I may use that word in polite company (g)).

Bluebells can be grown in other places than England and Europe, of course, including the United States-- but in this part of the world, it's perhaps more common to plant one of its close relatives, Hyacinthoides hispanica, or the Spanish bluebell or wood hyacinth.

Mexican Bush Sage in December
{Mexican bush sage}
In overall look, the Spanish bluebell bears a fair resemblance to its northern cousin, though they are easily differentiated by size, foliage thickness, and flower placement-- and the Spanish version lacks the fragrance of the English.  (Or rather, the Spanish is very faintly scented, compared to the English.)

I suspect we'll have better luck with the Spanish bluebells, in this area.  When I first read about these wood hyacinths, it came as a surprise that there were any bluebells that might do well around here.  (And technically, we're still on the warmest edge of the suggested range for even the Spanish bluebells, but I'm trying to be optimistic...)

Goldenrod in December
I've read that Spanish bluebells are known as "squill" in the South.  I don't recall ever hearing about "squill", but then again, I don't remember anyone in my family ever growing any type of bluebell, either.  Personally, when I hear "squill" I'm reminded of "squalid" and "squid"-- not exactly a positive connotation-- but that's just me. (g)

Apparently this is another plant that has gone through a few name changes.  It used to be Scilla hispanica (or campanulata) or Endymion.  (I'm partial to Endymion, myself.)

Spanish bluebells prefer well-drained (even sandy) soil and are not particularly thirsty (though they do better with sufficient early-season moisture).  They will bloom in anything from sun to shade, which makes them ideal for planting under trees or in other places where spring bulbs might not get enough sun to bloom reliably.  (Some sources say they may perform best in dappled sun, but others say they're really not at all picky.)

Variegated Shell Ginger in December
{Variegated shell ginger}
I ordered a couple varieties of wood hyacinths-- a large handful of 'White City' with white flowers and another couple handfuls of 'Excelsior' with violet-blue-- and planted them in a random mix.  Most of them went in the semi-shade garden, around the loropetalum trimmed into a tree, though a few found their way around a white Rose of Sharon, further to the west.

'Excelsior' is a popular variety of Spanish bluebell-- an heirloom from 1906.  The flowers are "deep violet-blue, darker and larger than most varieties".  Depending on who you believe, they grow anywhere from 10" to 16" tall.

'White City' is about the same size as 'Excelsior'-- possibly just a tiny bit shorter.  As the name indicates, its flowers are described as snow-white.  I can imagine the white blooms almost glowing, if planted in a shady location...

There are also varieties with violet-pink blooms.  If the blue and white do well, I wouldn't mind adding pink ('Dainty Maid', maybe?), at some point (because they are gorgeous in photos)-- but blue and white felt more "fresh spring" to me, this year.

Bog Sage in December
{Bog sage}
These bulbs are said to spread "discreetly but steadily".  They bloom in late spring (the calendar date of which will vary by zone, I'm sure), bridging the gap between early-spring bulbs and early-summer perennials.

(I'm getting impatient to see them, just thinking about it!  Easy, girl!  Don't get ahead of yourself!  Do you realize how much mulching you still have to do before you even think about wishing for spring?!  Also, mosquitoes.  Don't forget the mosquitoes.  Enjoy the respite and blessings of winter while they last.)

NOID Pink Rose
{Unknown pink rose}
Note:  Where English bluebells are native, there are problems with Spanish bluebells taking over and hybridizing with the native form, which robs them of their scent.  For this reason, they are sometimes viewed in a negative light, in that part of the world.  Over here, however, neither type is native, so there's no reason (in the privacy of your own garden) not to grow one or the other-- or both together, if you're not concerned about the hybrids lacking scent.  

KO Rose with Leaf-footed Bug
{Leaf-footed bug on KO rose}