Recre­ate English sum­mer

Kapi-Mana News - - GARDENING - By VICKI PRICE

The late Molly Hol­man, of Kapiti, had fond mem­o­ries of blue­bell woods in her na­tive Bri­tain. The vast chalk-blue drifts of the spring­time flow­ers left a strong im­pres­sion on her – a sight she would have loved to have seen again.

In these beloved English for­est glades, the trees’ early spring growth and open na­ture gives op­por­tunis­tic plants such as blue­bells the chance to grow and bloom as the weather warms and be­fore the leaves grow large on the canopy above.

The dap­pled sun­light through the as-yet bare branches lets the bulbs give their show of blue be­fore the sky turns green with new leaf, and the fox­gloves, bram­bles and brack­ens take over the for­est floor.

In New Zealand, some sem­blance of this can be re­pro­duced in your own gar­den quite sim­ply.

Blue­bells pre­fer par­tially shady moist zones but do not have to grow be­neath de­cid­u­ous trees.

They will grow quite hap­pily in flower borders, pots on shady pa­tios and even rock gar­dens.

You can repli­cate their nat­u­ral grow­ing con­di­tions, though, when you plant them be­neath shrubs or trees that are bare come early spring when the blue­bell flow­ers.

This is one of the ad­van­tages of de­cid­u­ous trees.

A chang­ing gar­den is in­ter­est­ing in that there is al­ways some­thing to en­joy in the mo­ment and to look for­ward to.

If you plant blue­bells be­neath de­cid­u­ous trees or shrubs and in­clude later-flow­er­ing plants, you can en­joy a suc­ces­sion of blooms and fo­liage.

Eng­land’s Royal Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety sug­gests a way to repli­cate the nat­u­ralised blue­bell wood in a large gar­den: grow the de­cid­u­ous whitestemmed birches as your tree layer, then plant a shrub layer of Ja­panese maples or dog­woods, fol­lowed by hostas or ferns, then spring bulbs.

Ever­green trees sim­ply block out too much light for plants and bulbs to flour­ish.

Blue­bells are mainly blue, but some are white and oth­ers pink. You can get Span­ish blue­bells, too.

There is some concern in Eng­land that the Span­ish hy­brids could en­dan­ger the English blue­bell drifts.

Span­ish blue­bells are mainly a gar­den plant in Bri­tain, while English blue­bells grow wild.

The two species cross-pol­li­nate, re­sult­ing in plants with the dom­i­nant char­ac­ter­is­tics be­ing of the Span­ish va­ri­ety. This is con­cern­ing Bri­tish na­ture lovers, who fear the Span­ish blue­bell could, in time, take over na­tive blue­bell pop­u­la­tions.

The flow­ers have one dis­tinc­tive dif­fer­ence in that English blue­bells grow on one side of the stalk, mak­ing it droop over in a grace­ful arch, while the Span­ish blooms sur­round its stalk, al­low­ing it to grow up­right.

The lat­ter grows in open ground rather than wood­land.

In the south­ern hemi­sphere there is our own blue­bell, Wahlen­ber­gia gracil­lis, which while short-lived, pro­duces sky-blue flow­ers through­out sum­mer.

This peren­nial likes well-drained soil in semi-shade or sun and self­seeds read­ily.

Plant blue­bells in au­tumn and leave for a few sea­sons to get es­tab­lished. Then clumps can be dug up and di­vided if wished.

Plant daf­fodils among them for a bold colour op­tion or stick with a mass plant for a calm­ing even ap­peal.

Place a seat nearby so you can en­joy their scent on a warm spring day – and per­haps dream of old Eng­land.

Photo: VICKI PRICE

Drifts of blue: Planted be­neath de­cid­u­ous trees, blue­bells are rem­i­nis­cent of an English wood­land in spring.

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