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Planting a Bluebell wood

This autumn I'm planting native English Bluebells in a small Beech wood we have. As I've dug into the subject, it's amazed me how varied the advice is online.

I started with the helpful GreenPlantSwap guide What is a Bluebell? which got me clued up on how to differentiate the English from the Spanish and Hybrid variants, which are horribly invasive and strip the English bluebells of their scent. So I took real care in sourcing a credible supplier.

The I looked at the planting. Some people recommend use of an auger (a spiral drill) to make 4-6 inch holes for the bulbs. That certainly sounds quick and easy. However, others recommend against this and say prepare the ground with a mattock to reduce competition from shallow Beech roots and other vegetation and avoid restricting the natural spread of the plants. The latter sounds the wiser course.

The recommended planting density ranges from 20 - 250 bulbs per square metre - a huge variation. No doubt the more you have the more intense the colour and scent will be come the Spring. Or are the higher figures quoted unsubtle sales ploys?

Then many sellers say nothing about the age of their bulbs; while others say you need mature bulbs at least 4 years older to be assured of flowers the following season. I've gone with a seller who claims their bulbs are 5-6 year old mature Bluebells.

I'd welcome any views and personal experience people have on these points.

Comments (6)

  1. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    What a lovely idea! And how typical that the internet is bursting full of advice, but that most of it is contradictory!

    I would suggest starting your planting, whatever density you decide to go for, in the deepest, darkest point of the wood, as one of the main differences between our Bluebells and those Spanish invaders is their liking for the open, meadow habitat (hence their presence in gardens) whereas "proper" Bluebells need summer shade, so a deciduous woodland is just perfect for them.

    I suppose - and it's only my opinion - that I'd plant them upwind and/or uphill of the centre of the wood, to help them spread. The seeds are not spread by wind as such, but I feel that they are more likely to spread themselves downwind and downhill.

  2. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    Thanks Rachel - that's great advice. The deepest darkest part of the wood is in fact the uphill part and we can plant in swathes, West to East coming down the hillside. I'm also inclined to plant the highest density at the back/top of the wood so the horizon line looking into the wood is the most intense blue when they are in flower. I can't wait!

  3. Grower

    Rachel the Gardener

    Mmm, sounds lovely!

  4. Grower

    Mike Hill

    I planted some English bluebells from a reliable (I thought) supplier last year and I was rather disappointed with the colour I got - the flowers were lighter blue than I expected. Otherwise the characteristics seemed right for the genuine article so I wonder if they didn't like the conditions they were in

  5. Grower

    Jeremy Wright

    Hmm ... it might be the conditions. I have read that planting in shadier areas around around tree stumps and under shrubs can intensify the colour. So the reverse should also be true ... more sunlight will weaken the colour.

  6. Grower

    Mike Hill

    but mine are in a really gloomy place under next door's oak tree

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