Hello dear friends, yes, I am posing a riddle; when is a bluebell not a bluebell? The answer of course is when it is a “whitebell”. Sometimes there is a mutation which means that the bluebell does not produce any pigment and so the flower is white.
In the garden we have a mixture of blue and white bluebells. As with most gardens and parks in the UK the bluebells are the Spanish variety or a hybrid of the Spanish and native bluebells. The native bluebells which adorn our ancient woodland are described in this post here.
The Spanish and hybrid bluebells are a paler blue, except when they are pink or white. They have larger flowers and the flowers tend to be on all sides of the stem so the whole flower is more upright, unlike the distinctive droop of the native British bluebell. The invasive species is also less fragrant.
Bluebell bulbs contain toxins and this was the reason they were used to create glue for bookbinding as it deterred silverfish from eating books. The starch from the bulbs was also used by Victorians for stiffening their cuffs and collars.
It was thought that bluebells were actual bells used by fairies and that should a human hear one ring then they would die. It must have been very stressful for tinnitus sufferers strolling through bluebell woods in olden times.
The bluebell flowers early and for a brief period, storing carbohydrates in their bulbs before the trees are in their full flush blocking out the sun’s rays. Emily Bronte manages a brief period of cheerfulness while the bluebells bloom and then spends the rest of the year pining for them, the full poem can be read here, but it begins on a positive note:
The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air:
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.
Here is a gallery of some of the other white blossoms brightening up the garden at the moment. I hope that you enjoy them.