The pain from Spain

They may still be sleeping beneath their woodland bed of leaves, but they are under attack from an ancient enemy – the Spanish.

What the Iberians couldn't do in 1588, when the Armada ran aground in its invasion bid, they have been trying to do now for several years – with their own bluebell.

Some people now fear that the native English plant is likely to be forced out by this more vigorous upstart.

But why anyone would want to plant bluebells in their garden is a mystery. Unless they have an area of deciduous woodland, and are happy to let the bulbs naturalise and spread, then there are many other bulbs far more suitable for the garden.

English bluebells (Hyacinthoides) are flowers of the wild, of woodland, where they bloom before the canopy of

leaves shuts out the light from the forest floor.

They grow and spread with amazing speed, and they have become a familiar and much-loved sight in late April and early May.

The Spanish bluebell (Endymion) can tolerate more light than its English counterpart – hence, its spread is

greater.

And once you have planted bluebells (be they English or Spanish) you will have a devil of a job removing them.

The fear at the moment is that anyone who does want to plant bluebells may plant the Spanish instead of the English. But if you buy from a reputable source, and check the Latin name of what you're buying, there is no chance of mistaking one for the other.

If you've been reading your Yorkshire Post carefully these past few weeks, you'll also have noticed a reader offer for the English bluebell, offering 50 bulbs for just 16.98. Worth considering if you want to keep the English species going.

Also worth considering are squills (Scilla). Delicate, but diverse, these bulbs will do the rockery proud in February; S sibirica reaches six inches in height and produces violet blooms between March and April, but there are also white and pink forms.

For a really early show, bulbs can be planted in pots indoors.

Outdoors, over-crowded clumps should be lifted and divided in early September and replanted immediately.

YP MAG 29/1/11