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Rick’s Native Plant of the Month | Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

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Bridge Gardens
May 6, 2021

By Rick Bogusch

Over the years, we’ve incorporated more native plants in the garden beds at Bridge Gardens to reflect the Peconic Land Trust’s commitment to showcasing sustainable landscape practices. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning about some interesting native perennials. Springtime always calls to mind spring-blooming wildflowers like Virginia bluebells. Commonly found in the moist, rich soil of woodlands and forested floodplains of eastern North America, Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) is a perennial, clump-forming native wildflower, perfect for your shade or part-shade woodland garden. Pink buds open for many weeks in April and May to pink and blue flowers that turn completely blue. Flowers appear along with large, oval blue-green leaves that die to the ground as plants go dormant by mid-summer.

If allowed to go to seed and conditions are right, Virginia bluebells often form large colonies, an amazing sight indeed. This delightful spring ephemeral, like its relatives the lungworts (Pulmonaria), comfreys, and forget-me-knot, pairs perfectly with ferns and other shade loving plants. All are visited by female bumble bees for nectar in spring and pollinated by moths and butterflies.

The bluebells pictured above were grown from seed I planted in late fall and given a cold treatment outside in winter. They germinated the next spring and were planted in the garden at the end of the season.

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