Cornish Bluebells

cornish bluebell

You may have recently acquired a packet of Cornish Bluebells from our ancient woodland and why you are visiting our site. We do hope so!

These bluebells have been lovingly collected and stored for a new project we have been keen to pursue due the importance of local seed provenance. It was inspired by a germination workshop we attended with Tevi on the very subject. Tevi are here to help business’s with their environmental growth strategies.

The question I asked, was how do we obtain genuine local seed? as many flower fields and meadows over the years are more often than not grown from seed obtained elsewhere. It made me realise that our Ancient woodland has exactly that, something untouched, not planted in recent years but a genuine ancient seed bank of native bluebells! We could help!

The British woodland is home to half of the worlds population of Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) but in many places the native bluebell is losing its stronghold to the Spanish bluebell (Hyacinthoides hispanica) and becoming hybridized (Hyacinthoides x massartiana) As the bluebell is protected in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981, it is illegal to dig bulbs up for example and sell them, a good stock of seed to share in our opinion is quite helpful.

The bluebell seed you have were collected early this July (2019) and was a tiny fraction of seed compared to what is carpeting the woodland floor. Here is a short video of how we did it. We merely rattled the ends of the bluebell heads sporadically near the paths where we walked leaving some of the seed per pod to fall. We also have videos of the wildlife that like nibbling on our bluebells, who knew! WATCH THE VIDEO HERE

The seeds were brought home, sorted from the organic matter and placed with silica in a paper bag. After a week they have been stored in the same way but transferred to the fridge in an airtight container. Today, the 26/07/2019 they have been popped into the seed packets we made for the Cornwall Wildlife Trust open garden at Millpool Grange for us to chat to the visitors about our projects and fund-raise for Cornwall Wildlife Trust.

What we would love to achieve and really appreciate is keeping us up to date on their progress over the next few years. Their success and failures. Bluebell seeds take a long time to start flowering. Please have patience over the next 3 to 5 years whilst they initially have to grow a bulb. In the first Spring you will see grass like strands appear while they mature. Each year getting stronger until finally they flower. We would love to catch up with you and see if our seeds have helped you achieve a miniature woodland native bluebell carpet in your garden, perhaps just a spot under a tree. Not forgetting these flowers are highly scented and remind you of a springtime walk in the forest.

Here are some guidance notes on sowing:

We looked at about 10 opinions from reliable experts on collecting, storing and sowing seeds. They are best sown in Autumn so pop them in the fridge until then. However, I wonder exactly how much nature would be better suited to make that choice, after all they have just fallen to the ground in the woodland, why not scatter and see!

Bluebells can cope with most soils, but prefer a moist well-drained soil rich in organic matter so add plenty of leaf mould or well rotted garden compost to the soil prior to sowing. Rake the area with a little bit left to the side, sow approx 1g to 2 gms of seeds per sqm. If you have the small seed packet, this is approx 1.5 to 2 sqm, where as the larger packet can cover approx 3 to 4 sqm. Gently rake a little of the leaf mould or sprinkle the compost over the area.

Bluebells are woodland lovers so planting in partial shade is best, ideally below deciduous trees or shrubs. They can cope with more sun but weeding will be required. Why not grow with some greater stitchwort and red campion for a mix of native colour and genuine woodland margin appeal. We are lucky enough to have the beautiful ancient woodland indicator – Woodland Anemone also carpeting the floor in Spring. It is by far the best time to appreciate what we are achieving in the woodland we manage for wildlife.

Go fourth and flourish!

About the author: Angie Cruse

As well as working hard on the ground here in the UK, Angie has spent ample time volunteering in conservation abroad and continually studies habitat management in conservation.