Late Bluebells and Rhododendrons

A few years ago here in Britain we were told have every year the flowers were blooming earlier and earlier because of global warming. One of the most beautiful natural woodland signs of spring is a carpet of bluebells in April time. Well this morning I took a walk in Workington in the far north of England and the bluebells were in full bloom. Mixed with the smell of wild garlic it was a wonderful experience. Here in Manchester, the bluebells in my garden – in the most informal, organic and highly naturalistic sense of the term – are still in bloom about a month later than normal. By now I have had to lop the dead heads and pull up the long leaves before they rot, becoming food for the slugs that plague the garden. The rhododendron is blooming at least a week late. They normally are in bloom for two weeks in late May. By 1st June, the flowers are past their best. I also include a picture of the lilac tree, obtained with the house and occasionally pruned in a most irregular fashion.

The rhododendron was purchased from Bodnant Garden in North Wales over 20 years ago. Despite my near total inattention, it seems to grow a little each year. This coincided with the period when I ceased being a volunteer rhodie-basher with the National Trust. In many parts of Britain the common purple-flowering ponticum has spread through many areas with peat soils, becoming an invasive species. The bushes grow to over ten metres high, and completely cover the ground, to the exclusion of other plants, including re-generating trees in woodland areas. The waxy evergreen leaves are also acidic, so once cleared the soil can be poisoned for years after. I describe myself as a “slightly” manic beancounter. There was nothing slight about the manic ferocity that I used to hack the invaders down with a bow saw, smash and tear up the roots with a mattock and then consign the whole lot with to a flaming pyre. 

The bluebell seeds were given to me by the late Joyce and Jack Page, a keen pair of organic gardeners. I was warned that they could spread, so ignored their advice and scattered them in various patches in the both front and back. Now, every other year I dig out all the bulbs I can find, but they keep re-sprouting.