Q&A: Bluebells and bluebells?

Question:
I bought what was labeled bluebells from an online catalog. When they arrived, I found that it was something completely different. The lady on the phone told me that they were positive that what they sent were bluebells but that perhaps I was thinking of another bluebell. What did she mean?—A.D., Easley, S.C.
 
Answer:
The common name “bluebell” shows how, in an international context, sometimes only a botanical name makes it clear which plant we mean.

In England the bluebell is Hyacinthoides non-scripta, a bulb that makes sheets of blue in the woods in spring. In Scotland the bluebell is Campanula rotundifolia, a small summer flower. In the United States, the Virginia bluebell (Mertensia virginica) is a pretty perennial. To Australians, a bluebell is the climber called Sollya heterophylla.

The best way to avoid this situation in the future is to always have the botanical name on hand as well when searching by the common name. Pictures in a catalog also help if you know what the plant you seek looks like.

Strange growth, no blooms or are you wondering the best way to transplant? Just ask, and the Horticulture editorial team will take a stab at answering your ailment or query. E-mail edit@hortmag.com

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