Spanish Bluebells

When I first became passionate about gardening and horticulture in college, I would devour books and magazines about gardens and plants. Around my junior year of college, our professor told us to take advantage of the Garden Book Club. I have no idea if this club still exists but it felt like I could order one book and then get three for free. I have a shelf full of books written by the likes of Roy Lancaster, Rosemary Verey, and other English gardeners. Looking back on those days, it seemed as though all of the great books on gardening and horticulture were written by British authors. One of the most impressive images found in several of these books was of a bluebell woods. Growing up in Raleigh, North Carolina, I had encountered a poison ivy woods, a kudzu woods, and even an old tire dump woods but nothing like the image I saw in these books.


The vision of these bluebell woods was quite magical. If you were to look up the word idyllic in the dictionary, there would be a picture of a bluebell wood in England. Along with a unicorn casually sauntering under the oaks and amongst the plants. It was definitely a romantic version of what a landscape could be. That vision came back to me last week after nearly 20 years while visiting the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens. In case you have never been before, there is a nice area where you can walk through a grove of Spanish bluebells under a bosque of mature trees. Last week, all of the bluebells were in flower and the result was as impressive as it was in these buy 1 get 3 free gardening books.

Spanish bluebells, or Hyacinthoides hispanica, are native to the Iberian peninsula. They are prized for their light blue flowers and dark foliage. These bulbs will usually flower between the spring flowering tulips and later, summer display. After flowering, the foliage will stay up, resulting in a dark green, almost large-leaved liriope appearance. I have heard some gardeners say that they have a short flowering time and then a lot of foliage but I, for one, do not mind the plants when they are done flowering. They have a nice and tidy mounding appearance.

Grow Spanish bluebells in full-sun to shade. Being able to thrive in shade is probably one of their greatest attributes. The soil should be rich and moist, yet well-drained. If you have yet to grow Spanish bluebells, give them a try in a shaded part of your garden in need of some late spring color.

– Rodney

Images: NYC loves NYC,


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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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