An Explosion of Bluebells


You gotta see the view from bluebell hill

story and photos by Derek Doeffinger

“Bluebells everywhere. They’re just down the road, beside the creek.” My anonymous tipster raved about them and said I had to see them. “Today. Now.” She was emphatic and gave me that long I’m not kidding look.

So I went there immediately, after stopping by the house for some photo gear. What a sight.

Tens of thousands of blue bells carpeting the creek’s flood meadow in vibrant blues and greens.

Towering over the bluebells were huge tilting and twisting sycamores and bulging oaks with arrow-straight trunks that once would have been worth a fortune as pirate ship masts.

Imagine walking through thousands of these wild flowers.


But there was a challenge–you had to cross a creek to reach the bluebell field. And the creek was high. My friend and fellow photographer Gary and his dog Abby would have loved to have forded the creek with me, and there’s a good chance he might’ve slipped to provide some entertainment. But they (with wife Stephanie) had already fled to Florida .

So I crossed alone at a spot that was only shin deep. In my left hand I clutched a waterproof bag filled with my camera gear while my right hand gripped the top of a tripod that had one leg extended to function as a steadying staff. If I fell, no one would be there to break out in laughter. With a short sidestepping orientation to reduce the push of the current, I edged across, wobbling whenever I stepped on a loose or slippery rock, and clambered up the muddy bank. Fifty steps later, I entered bluebell heaven.

The knee high plants extended as far as I could see, sweeping through the flood meadow and snuggling up to the broad oak and sycamore trunks. The bluebell plants all dangled chandeliers of blue, inch-long bugle-shaped blossoms. Although the bluebells thrive in the rich damp soils along creeks, their blooms beguile for only about a week. This show would be over in a few days.

For years the bluebell caretakers, Fred and Linda (“They’re really nice,” said my tipster), invited neighbors to see this natural phenomena. But this year the creek was a problem.



Derek drove his parents, Linda and Fred, on a test drive that found the creek surging over the wagon.


Normally they used a tractor and wagon to ferry friends and a few friends of friends across the creek to the bluebells. But today the high water made the tractor crossing too risky. As the picture shows, with son Derek taking his parents on a test drive, the water surged across the top of the wagon. The tractor ferry was out–too risky. And wading across the fast moving cold water was not an answer for families.

The field of bluebells ran about three hundred yards northward along the east side of the winding creek. The flowers extended about 200 yards to the east, across the flood plain and up bluebell hill where trillium and blue cohosh joined in the floriferous mix. I climbed halfway up bluebell hill and found myself immersed in its sweeping view of bluebells and soaring trees. Nature was renewing itself before my eyes.


A hilltop view shows the bluebells stretching into the distance beneath trees just budding out.


The visuals so overwhelmed my senses that it took half an hour before I noticed something else. A sweet, delicate scent. Tantalizing wisps that teased the brain into looking around to see if an alluring woodland creature was hiding nearby. Of course, there wasn’t.

But the perfume was so seductive that I later googled “bluebell perfume.” Naturally there were several brands, but none could offer the delightful fairyland sensations of strolling through a seemingly endless field of bluebells beneath the twisting brindled and budding branches of sycamore giants.


Derek Doeffinger spent a few decades at Kodak explaining how people can take better pictures and then encouraging them to use Kodak products — especially digital cameras. That last part didn’t quite work out. Fortunately during his Kodak days he became an obsessed outdoor photographer, especially of Finger Lakes waterfalls. He’s written several photos books about the Finger Lakes and digital photography, and now has written quite a few articles for Life in the Finger Lakes.


  • Martha Sitzman says:

    Have you checked out Cornell Wildflower Garden? Developed on land that was once a garbage dump?

  • Anna Dries Greenmun says:

    My husband and I moved our family from Steuben County in 1969 to Arizona for health reasons. However, New York’s beauty is one of a kind, and we came back often to soak it all in and visit the wonderful people there. The bluebells did not “show up” in the photo as much as I would have liked, but the trees and essence of it all brings back many wonderful memories of my childhood and Letchworth park picnics. Thanks for the bluebell closeup. Lovely!

  • Geralyn Huba says:

    a delightful article! Thank you for sharing this bit of spring

  • MJ says:

    I want to grow these in my woods in Massachusetts!

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