TOW - British Native bulbs - Bluebells, Scilla Verna and Narcissus pseudonarcissus

Robin Attrill
Mon, 24 Feb 2003 13:42:24 PST

Scilla verna is indeed a nice plant but the UK native form tends to be
rather smaller flowered than the iberian populations, and as you state,
tends to be slow to increase. Given the wide range of 'alternative Scillas'
for spring bloom it is not one of 'top British bulbs', but is still worthy
of consideration for the spring garden.

The daffodil, Narcissus pseudonarcissus, is also a nice plant, best suited
to naturalistic planting in a woodland or parkland setting. Whether it is a
true native of the British Isles is a matter of some debate - it may have
originated as an introduction in medieval times.  Selected forms were grown
in past times for the flower trade - my mothers garden contains rows planted
in an old orchard which are known to have been present since at least 1935.
These plants, the flowers of which resemble Narcissus pseudonarcissus but
are much larger, remain free flowering and continue to flourish despite the
formidable presence of several species of Narcissus flies (Merodon equestris
and Eumerus spp.)! Interestingly there is no evidence of self seeding
suggesting  possible clonal origin, although they might also be of hybrid
origin. Wild populations vary in seed production, some producing virtually
none, again suggestive of clonal origin.

Regarding bluebells, which over the years have been variously placed in
Hyacynthoides, Scilla and Endymion amongst other genera, I have not seen the
'Ranmore' form that you mention.  I assume this may originate from Ranmore
Common in Surrey which has spectacular populations of the plant.  I have
however seen white forms in which the flowers retain some blue pigmentation
in similar fashion to that which you describe in a population on the Isle of
Wight. Interestingly the same population contains a few bracteate blue
flowered plants!  Occasionally one sees evidence of hybridisation with the
Spanish Bluebell, H. hispanica, a common garden plant in the UK that
frequently 'escapes' via dumping of garden refuse.

Best wishes

Robin Attrill

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