Bells Of Ireland Flower
The Bells Of Ireland Flower - Green, But Not Irish
One would thing that the Bells of Ireland flower might well be the national flower of that country. It is certainly prominent in bouquets around St. Patrick's Day, and is certainly green, in keeping with many things Irish. The plant however, is not a native of Ireland, but is native to the Middle East, though it is now grown all over the world. It gets its name however from its color, which is of course associated with the Emerald Isle.
It's The Calyxes That Make The Difference - Even the name can be a bit misleading, as the blossom of the Bells of Ireland flower is not green at all, but actually white to pinkish white! If you look closely at most flowers, between the petals and the stem are green leaf-like growths called calyxes. Calyxes are most often hidden or very small on most flowers. On the Bells of Ireland flower, they are much larger than the tiny but attractive bell-shaped blossoms themselves, usually hiding the blossoms almost completely, and often mistaken as being true blossoms, which they are not. It doesn't matter much however whether what we see are flower petals or calyxes. The plant is extremely attractive, both in the garden, and as a cut flower or in a bouquet or mixed-flower centerpiece, being especially attractive with flowers having pastel shades of color or flowers that are purple in color. It is often used in wedding bouquets. The blossoms themselves are pleasantly fragrant and are often used in the making of perfumes.
The bells grow on tall spires and are quite impressive when growing among other garden plants. The stems have tiny thorns, not as nasty as rose thorns to deal with, but they can be irritating nevertheless. Wear gloves when handling the plants. A warm-weather plant, it will bloom in mid to late summer depending upon when the seeds are sown and the climate. In warm countries the Bells of Ireland flower is a perennial, but will not overwinter in cold or freezing weather, so is normally grown as an annual. The foliage will rapidly die back at the first touch of frost.
As A Dried Flower - The Bells of Ireland flower also makes a nice dried flower. Hanging them upside down in a cool dark location is all that is required, although its best to remove the thorns from the stems (the resulting color of the dried flower is otherwise adversely affected) and also the leaves (which are also a little prickly), leaving only the stems and calyxes.
Growing The Flowers - Bells of Ireland Flowers are easy to grow. In cool climates, the seeds, which have a rather unusual triangular shape, are started indoors by placing them in trays of dirt and lightly covering them with no more than 1/4" of soil. Watering is best accomplished by misting, so as not to disturb the seeds more than necessary. Mist the seeds often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. Once all danger of frost is past, the seedlings may be transplanted into the garden. The flower transplants well, and once established, requires very little in the way of care and maintenance. Compost mixed into the soil at planting time and an occasional dressing of slow release fertilizer will provide the best results, as will mulching to help keep the soil moist. Plant Bells of Ireland in full sun.
In most parts of the United States, and in Ireland for that matter, the bells will not be formed in time for St. Patrick's Day bouquets or decorations. Florists have found a way around this problem however, and cut flowers are available year around. Bells of Ireland flower seeds are usually easily obtainable, either in local plant stores and nurseries, and from most of the larger mail-order and on line seed companies.