A few days after writing back and forth with several of you about the charm of blue flowers, I happened on a type of blue flower I had never seen, cropping up here and there in the shady, somewhat wild stretch of plantings south of the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. The plants were large and handsome. They turned out to be specimens of the hybrid bluebell, a cross between the English bluebell (which has droopy flowers growing on just one side of the stem) and the Spanish bluebell, which is shaped just like the plant you see but with blue rather than white stamens. This Hyacinthoides × massartiana is a sturdy, versatile plant that some gardeners in the Pacific Northwest decry as invasive.
For the moment, however, this plant satisfies spectators’ demand for plants that bloom. Conservatories and botanical gardens I’ve visited over the last few years are going to greater lengths to make sure that blooming plants feature prominently in their plant displays, even when the balance of blooming plants far exceeds what is “natural.” It’s a trend highlighting the illusory quality of the “nature” that such institutions present. To find these hybrid bulbs planted so near the Nature Museum, which is known for its relatively authentic swaths of prairie and woodland plants, was a little disturbing.
On the other hand, now that I’ve seen this strong shade-loving bluebell, I may not be able to resist planting it myself.