My Back Pages: Bluebells in “Rebecca” (and at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden)

bluebell wood

This week I made a visit to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s Bluebell Wood, just in time to catch the bluebells before they start to fade away. This corner of the garden always reminds me of Manderley in Daphne DuMaurier’s Rebecca.

“Too early yet for blue bells, their heads were still hidden beneath last-year’s leaves, but when they came, dwarfing the more humble violet, they choked the very bracken in the woods, and with their colour made a challenge to the sky.

He never would have them in the house, he said. Thrust into vases they became dank and listless, and to see them at their best you must walk in the woods in the morning, about twelve o’clock, when the sun is overhead. They had a smoky, rather bitter smell, as though a wild sap ran in their stalks, pungent and juicy. People who plucked bluebells from the woods were vandals, he had forbidden it at Manderley…”

bluebell detail

From the Brooklyn Botanic Garden website:

“More than 45,000 bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica ‘Excelsior’) are planted under a mature stand of oak, birch, and beech trees just south of Cherry Esplanade. In late April, the bluebells burst into flower and create an enchanting woodland display.”

I’ve never found a perfume that successfully captures this scent, although I’m still looking.

Bonus: the title track from Cocteau Twins’ Blue Bell Knoll.
Photos by Tinsel Creation.

4 thoughts on “My Back Pages: Bluebells in “Rebecca” (and at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden)

  1. Rebecca is one of my all-time favorite novels! I don’t know how bluebells smell (and I don’t like two bluebell perfumes that I know). But beautiful pictures.

    1. It’s been one of my favorites since I first read it in high school! I really don’t care for Penhaligon’s Bluebell, and Jo Malone Bluebell is pretty but doesn’t smell like the real flower.

    1. You are very welcome. Feel free to cite the blog in your footnotes or bibliography! I’m sure a few students read posts here…but you’re the first one to say hello. :)

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