Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bluebells... The Sweet Invader

There is more than one plant that I wish I had never introduced into our garden... the lamium from hell being a prime example. Bluebells, a native spring ephemeral, with their sweet, dusty blue and lavender flowers would hardly seem like a garden thug, but turn your back on them and they somehow sweetly end up taking over a flower bed. They came into this garden riding along with something I transplanted from my first garden. That garden was on the edge of a beautiful virgin woods full of wildflowers, and so bluebells, dogtooth violets, and bloodroots soon found my first garden to their liking.
The problem with bluebells in a woodland garden is that when they die down in late spring, their tall, lanky foliage just flops all over everything, and can soon smother out smaller neighbors. The woody roots tangle themselves through and around the other plants, so they are hard to remove; often pieces break off and just regrow. Also the dying foliage itself is hardly the perfect accent to a garden in its prime blooming season.
Bluebells are certainly a wildflower that tugs at my heartstrings; I can remember hillside after hillside of them blooming every spring when I was young, their dainty pastel flowers waving in the warm breezes of April... those hillsides now are covered with houses, the bluebells gone.
Well, not completely gone... they are currently occupied in taking over one of my azalea beds.

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And, at this young state in my garden, the bluebells are just lovely. An amazing growth for so early in the Spring. I was getting kind of excited that they were beginning to spread... Can you control where they grow, at all? Do they stop if you create rocky borders?

Is it not better than way-overgrown mint?
I would love to take some of those beautiful bluebells off your hands after they bloom this spring! Let me know if you would be open to parting with some. I will do the digging! I live near CR and come to IC periodically. Thanks, Anne
Shady... I don't think it takes too much of a barrier to stop direct spread, but they seed like crazy.

Anony... deal! I'll try and remember to e-mail you when they die back.
lovely flowers
Oh, I LOVE LOVE LOVE bluebells! We found a huge drift of them alongside a wooded river bank two years ago and brought some home to live in our garden. Well, they're not actually in the garden. They're under the neighbor's hedge that adjoins our yard, but on our side of it. Perfect spot and I really hope they do spread more!
I love bluebells and have them established in certain parts of my urban garden. I also love the little blue silla that is shorter and earlier and about as invasive.
I do not find really any down side to bluebells. I let them go in areas that I have planted with taller perennials. Sagae hosta for example is exquisite with the Bluebells.
I agree that they can crowd out epimedium or other shorter perennials.
On the other hand they pot up easily if you do it when they are no more than 1-2 inches out of the ground. They also get out of the way by June 1 and can easily have the old foliage raked away, unlike daffodils leaves which can linger forever. (I do like daffodils.)
I would imagine that Project Green would love to get several hundred pots of bluebells for their spring sale if you had many you wanted to get rid of.
I often wondered about having invasive plant contests, much like professional wrestling matches. What if you put bluebells and garlic mustard in a ring, along with creeping charlie and that awful purple campanula and watch who emerged in 5 years.
One last thought. I think gardeners should have times when they have too many of certain plants. This is known as good problems to have. What if the pulmonaria start to take over for example. What if certain hosta get too big, or the celendine poppies start to get out of control. I think that having too many bluebells may be in that category.
Something happened to my comment, so I'll try to recreate it. I didn't know that they were a thug. Mine are slugging it out with Asarum candense & Podophyllum peltatum. May the strongest plant win.
Kylee... if they're halfway happy, they'll spread.

Philip... I should get some potted up when they die back; the trouble is that is the busiest time of the year, and I always have lots of more interesting things to do.
I can tell you, in a contest the garlic mustard would win every time.

MMD... thug may be too strong... pushy, maybe?

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