If you go down to the woods today – or to wooded parts of Lydiard Park – there are two wild flowers you may well find. The first are bluebells, which start to emerge in mid-April and by May are putting on a tremendous show, and wild garlic, which has delicate star-shaped white flowers at this time of year but which you might well notice first by its pungent smell!
It’s an extraordinary fact that in the UK we have more than half of all the world’s bluebells. They need undisturbed soil to grow which is why they are so often found in ancient woodland but also along hedgerows and even on banks at the sides of roads. The native bluebell has a strong, sweet scent and has been around a long time. Some of the old names for the flower reflect this: Bell Bottle, Cuckoo’s Boots, Wood Hyacinth, Lady’s Nightcap and Witches’ Thimbles!
Meanwhile the garlic is another long-established plant in the UK, first known by its Anglo-Saxon name hramsa which became ramsom. Wild garlic is very closely related to chives and has numerous herbal and medicinal properties. There is also a lot of folklore associated with the plant – wild garlic cloves were planted in the thatch of Irish cottages for good luck and were said to keep away the fairies! The plant is also said to repel cats, which don’t like the smell!