For a few years, I thought bluebells were lovely spring flowers & welcomed them into our beds & borders. And no wonder:
- Each stem bears a profusion of bellflowers.
- The bells dangle & shift delicately in the breeze.
- Deer ignore the blossoms.
- Bluebells are just so darn pretty.
- Great masses of them are even prettier. Have you seen the blue carpets of English woodlands in bloom?
In the Pacific Northwest, we have similar growing conditions to the UK. Bluebells grow just as well here but aren’t as welcome. (preference is for our native Camas.) It’s becoming more apparent to me how thuggish bluebells can be – overwhelming whatever they’re grown with, especially other bulbs – – like Camas. 😦
It’s a pity something so pretty can be such a bully.
This spring, my challenge is to clear one bed of as much bluebell as possible. Here’s a “Before the dig” photo:
I do like the lush spring foliage of the bluebells, but can you see any of the perennials? Those plants are hidden from sunshine by masses of bluebell leaf.
A pitchfork worked well in the moist soil. Great clumps of bluebell came out. Apparently, bluebells don’t leave their survival to seed dispersal alone. Each bulb can produce offsets, forming dense clusters. Clever.
Check out how deep some bulbs were! The bluebells in this photo had only just reached the surface of the soil! That’s a loooong climb through darkness. Imagine how much energy the bulb had stored in order to grow that much stem in search of sunshine!! (If only we could harness that energy!)
Then… I started noticing how some of the shoots were creating replacement bulbs closer to the surface. Isn’t that clever, too? Another excellent survival strategy.
I wonder how deeply a bulb can be buried before it just cannot reach the soil surface & re-establish itself?
And THEN… I noticed how some bulbs were sending out ‘runners.’ This is undoubtedly an effective way of increasing its distribution in the bed! These bluebells are determined to take over.
There were masses of new starts– baby plants that likely grew from the seeds that fell last year. I tried my best to get them all. But just think about it — my digging has likely exposed more of the seed bank to the sunshine. More bluebells are about to sprout.
There’s no way I dug out ALL the bulbs. Many stems broke off, leaving the bulbs deep in the ground. Hopefully, depriving the bulb of this year’s leaf will starve it enough that it won’t grow next year. What are the chances?
I’ll continue to pull any that I find this spring. For now, the bed is clear enough that the other plants have access to the sunshine & a chance to grow.
I guess we’ll have to wait until next spring to see how well the effort pays off…