In and Out the Scottish (um, English) Blubells

IMG_6917Whilst taking photographs for this post I found myself singing the above song* to myself, a song linked to a childhood game/dance that some of you might remember. The song (the version I sang, but I believe some versions talk about ‘dusty’ or ‘dusky’ bluebells’) goes like this:

In and out the Scottish bluebells,
In and out the Scottish bluebells,
In and out the Scottish bluebells,
Who will be my leader?

Tap a-rap a-tap-a on your shoulder,
Tap a-rap a-tap-a on your shoulder,
Tap a-rap a-tap-a on your shoulder,
I will be your leader.

The participants stand in a circle with their arms raised to make arches and the person who is ‘it’ weaves in and out of the arches as the first part is sung and then taps someone on the shoulder. They become the leader and the first person holds onto their waist and they weave in and out together, the game continuing and the line getting longer until the last person joins and there are no more arches – what fun! Googling it now, there is a suggestion that it may have referred (as various childhood games or songs did) to the plague, during which Death often came indiscriminately and ‘tapped’ people on the shoulder.

Apologies for introducing a sneaky earworm to those who are susceptible to such things – and for referring to Scottish bluebells which are indeed something completely different (the native wild harebell) when I was taking photographs of ‘English’ bluebells. As a child in Scotland the harebell was the only bluebell I knew and the concept of ‘bluebell woods’ was beyond me, so I think I can be forgiven.

IMG_6910Anyway, back in 2000 when I planted the trees in our little woodland I also planted a swathe of bluebells which of course have multiplied over the years. I don’t know when I first realised they had not been flowering well for some time, but it seemed highly likely that they desperately needed to be divided. The trug on the left probably contains only 4 or 5 clumps but each must consist of 100s of bluebell bulbs of varying size. Definitely no room to manoeuvre, let alone flower! Hmm, how long was it since they were first planted? This was a job that should have done years ago…

IMG_6912I made a start over a couple of afternoons during the week, firstly digging up parts of the clumps and replanting them elsewhere but then digging up whole clumps and splitting them into groups of just a few bulbs before replanting – every existing clump would benefit from this treatment so it seems likely that it will be an ongoing job. The photo on the right shows one of the smaller clumps before it was split.

Fortunately the soil in the woodland is deep and soft (away from tree roots) no doubt benefitting from 15 years of leaf fall just as a natural woodland does, so digging holes for replanting was an easy task. Likewise, making a home for many of them under the holly tree at the far end of the shrub border (bottom left corner on the 3rd photograph of the EOMV post), along with primrose plantlets, was also easy and will make a huge difference to this corner which had been overrun with ivy and tended to become a dumping ground for things in transit.

Whether or not I will be rewarded for my efforts by a bumper crop of bluebells in a month or two is anyone’s guess – but it will certainly give them a boost and if not this year then the promise is there for the future. In the meantime I have more dividing to do…

IMG_6918* thank you to Marian (see comments) who has found a version of the song on You Tube

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41 Responses to In and Out the Scottish (um, English) Blubells

  1. johnvic8 says:

    Your Scottish bluebells look just like mine at this stage. Shall we race to see who gets the first blooms?

  2. Fun post. I will take any signs of spring at this point and your Scottish Bluebells are looking just fine! Happy spring…well almost!

  3. rickii says:

    People around here often complain about the invasive nature of bluebells but mine come along right after the first daffodils and do a nice job of hiding that dying foliage. Once the bluebells are finished I just mulch that area, though I would love to find a third act.

  4. I am not familiar with your song or game. It sounds like fun. I can’t wait to see the bluebells that will probably flower up a storm they will be so happy that you transplanted them.

  5. croftgarden says:

    Strange how so many childhood rhymes have sinister roots.
    I’ve also never understood how bulbs in the wild never get split but continue to flower. I will ponder and investigate – setting a conundrum is worse than an earworm!

  6. Love bluebells, mine have also just broken up through the ground and will bloom shortly…Enjoyed the song.

  7. What work! Bravo. I hadn’t heard the bluebell song before, but found something similar on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fadMI0Zo8ro

  8. Renee says:

    Thร ts a lot of bluebells! I hope they reward your hard work with a lot of flowers…

  9. Amy Myers says:

    I dream of the day when anything in my current garden is desperately in need of dividing… ๐Ÿ˜‰ Thanks for explaining the game – it sounds like one I would have loved as a child!

    • Cathy says:

      Oh Amy – I know what you mean and have to admit that there are also some things I planted in my garden some time ago but have now removed because I didn’t like them…But you have done wonders in your garden though…

  10. That’s a job well done, and singing as well! Lovely.

  11. AnnetteM says:

    I remember the song well from my childhood – though it was dusty bluebells that we sang. We have bluebells at the back of the borders in our garden. I am happy to leave them there, but I am not happy that somehow over the last few years pink ones seem to have snuck in from somewhere. It certainly wasn’t anything I brought into the garden. Bluebells should be blue!!!

    • Cathy says:

      Interestingly, my Mum remembers the song as ‘dusky’ bluebells… And strangely, I wouldn’t mind the odd pink one… ๐Ÿ™‚

      • AnnetteM says:

        I can see how dusky could easily be changed to dusty. They are a very insipid pink Cathy, but happy to send you some if you want.. . .not sure if they are proper English bluebells though or some hybrid so you might be best not to mix them. They were here when we came.

  12. Anna says:

    Oh I didn’t come across this one Cathy as a child growing up in East Anglia. Our bluebells in the garden were all inherited and I really need to some ‘editing’. I’m off to consult my Oxford Nursery Rhyme Book to see if it’s included.

  13. I am 6 years old again!! Our bluebells were “dusty” and our leader was “the master”! I didn’t realise, though, it was supposedly about the plague. Constantly learning!

  14. Hmm, thankfully never heard of that game, so no earworm. Your woodland soil sounds delicious, and I’m sure your bluebells will reward you for your care, next year if not this.

  15. Pauline says:

    You will have a drift next year for sure, they are going to look amazing!
    I seem to remember the song as “dusky bluebells”, but then, that is a heck of a long time ago!

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Pauline. I know I must have learned the song pre age 11, as it was definitely Scottish bluebells I sang about so yes, a long time ago!

  16. Amde says:

    The song goes โ€œin and out the dusty bluebells, in and out the dusty bluebells, in and out the dusty bluebells, who shall be my master? Tipperiperapper on my shoulder, tippiperapper on my shoulder, tipperipperapper on my shouder, who shall be my master?โ€
    I was born in 1968 in Glasgow and the Pollok Estate was full of blubells. Still is to this day, I am told.

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