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Growing bluebells

On a recently seen English gardening program I heard the comment that English bluebells won't grow in New Zealand. On thinking back to my years growing up in NZ, I realise I never saw any. And, in talking to several keen gardeners among my friends on a recent trip home to NZ, they have never seen the English bluebell growing in NZ either.

Their first response to my question was 'Oh yes, of course it does' but when we referred to a reference book to check the picture, we all agreed it was not the English blue bell they have seen but what, I suspect, is the Spanish bluebell (different shape, flowers not so delicate and no scent, but takes the heat better). So why, when all the other English spring bulbs do so well in NZ do we not grow the English bluebell? Please can someone tell me why?

Incidentally, on the train between Masterton and Wellington I overheard someone talking about the white bluebells growing along the sides of the tracks… Onion flowers, do you think?


Bluebells do need winter chilling, so Auckland is probably not a good place for them, but Wellington would be. Yes, bluebells do grow in NZ. Both Spanish and English varieties. Our bulb grower cannot tell the Spanish and English bluebell apart unless they are side by side. He is in the Manawatu and has English bluebells growing very well. Our bulb grower sources blue bluebells in New Zealand and imports the pink and white forms from Australia until he can bulk up numbers enough to produce them here.

Bluebells have now been correctly classified as Hyacinthoides. The Spanish Bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica and the English Bluebell Hyacinthoides nonscripta. (Previously the Spanish Bluebell was Endymion hispanicus synonymous with Scilla campanulata and the English Bluebell Endymion non-scriptus.)

For more information, I suggest you contact Mr Terry Hatch of Joy Plants. He is English, and is a bulb authority having co-authored a book with Jack Hobbs from the Auckland Regional Botanic Gardens called Bulbs for New Zealand Gardeners. His phone number is (09) 238 9129.

As for the white bluebells growing alongside the railway track, you may be right, it could be onion weed.

UnitecAdvice by Dr Dan Blanchon from Unitec's Diploma in Sustainable Horticulture and Bachelor of Resource Management.

Reproduced with permission from NZOOM Home and Garden content,
from the previous website of  TVNZ News

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