In Like a Lamb

I’m considering filing a restraining order against March this year.  Every spring-like warm spell brings the hellebores and snowdrops on a little further along but then some new brutal weather event comes by to smack them all down again.  It’s clearly an unhealthy relationship but I just can’t move on.  Every time the sun comes out again, spring becomes so real I just want to forgive and forget and say just one more chance.

galanthus brenda troyle

Possibly my favorite snowdrop, ‘Brenda Troyle’ looks extremely average but it’s also so reliable and perfect I can’t say a single bad thing about it.

Most of the snowdrops were lost after the first chance for spring came and went, but a few hid here and there either underground or cozied up to the house foundation.  A shame they didn’t warn the hellebores about how fickle the season was being.

hellebore buds

The hellebores which could have been.

I admit I’m not much help in protecting things.  A few snowdrops received a plastic tub or bucket cover for when the thermometer dropped to 7F (-14C) one night, but most things are on their own.

galanthus lagodechianus

Galanthus lagodechianus tried hiding underground for a while and did manage to avoid the hail, but then came up just as the latest arctic blast was about to hit.  Fortunately a simple cover saved its perfect flowers from damage and at least this week I’ll be able to enjoy the yellow coloring which is exceptionally bright this spring.  

The various snow crocus in the meadow garden are always a risky bet so I can’t complain much here.  The weather gets whatever the rabbits didn’t so even in a good year you need to be quick.

snow crocus

Some warm sun might be too much to ask for.  I keep waiting for the spring where I see a whole swath of opened crocus basking in the sunlight… but it hasn’t happened yet. 

To hedge my spring flowering bets I went around yesterday and plucked any undamaged hellebores which were still around.  A few remained and they were enough to remind me why I still bother growing them…. since last year’s season was mostly a bust as well.

hellebore flowers

Snuggled up right next to the porch foundation, hellebore ‘Cinnamon Snow’ has actually flowered well this year. Usually the buds are killed much earlier in the winter and never make it to this point.  Wish I could say the same for the others, but this small handful were the only undamaged flowers I could rustle up. 

Hopefully the rest of March is a little gentler on the hellebores and the later flowers can still develop and put on a show.  It would be nice to see a few showy clumps instead of the wilted and blacked stalks I’ve been getting used to seeing.

hail damage magnolia

Fingers crossed that this is the last of the hail damage.  At first the magnolias didn’t look so bad, but once the damage started to brown it was a different story. Fresh foliage will make this all a memory in a few more weeks… I think.

One last complaint.  For some reason these snowdrops (G. woronowii) really took a beating from the cold.  Maybe it was the 62F to 7F drop in temperature, or the wet soil, or the exposed location, whatever the case I think a few might not be salvageable.

snowdrop freeze damage

Sad seeing freeze damage on a snowdrop but it’s not my first time.  Maybe a few will survive, but they (and about 200 others) were looking so promising for their first year. 

I guess some days it’s just better to stay indoors.

forced tulip

The first of the forced tulips are coming into flower.  I’m sure their shortness says something bad about their culture but to be honest the height actually works out perfectly for under the growlights 🙂

The indoor garden should really have many more seedlings getting size on them for spring planting, but for whatever reason I just haven’t yet been in the mood to tackle a whole under-lights seed agenda this year.  I planted onions, that’s it.  Good thing the primroses are filling in and starting to flower.

primula auricula

Photographing yellow is still a sticking point for me, but hopefully this picture still gets across how nicely this primula auricula has done.

Having my yellow Primula auricula survive for a second year was a surprise in itself, but the fact that it’s actually multiplied and flowered again is borderline unbelievable.

primula auricula

I still think the mealy powder on these flowers is one of the most exotic things. 

These indoor flowers will have to keep me and most of the East coast going for the next few days since March just decided to come back and slap us with a surprise snowfall.  Normally this would be another reason to complain, but at least snow should insulate things for the temperature drop which will follow.

hellebore in snow

Hellebore ‘Cinnamon Snow’ in the actual snow.

Temperature drop and then more snow.  Right now they’re saying lots more but given the forecasting track record it’s still too soon to tell.  Wouldn’t that be something though if we get more snow in the first few days of spring than we did all winter.  March must know I was planning on a garden visit next weekend because I bet this weather forecast is what jealously looks like.  Stop it March!

The Iceman Cometh

I made a point of getting the lawn mowed Saturday.  I wanted to have things nice and neat for when the snow comes.

mixed perennial border

Bright yellow daffodils, blue hyacinths and a freshly cut lawn.  The front border is looking very spring-ish with its mix of sprouting perennials and flowering spring bulbs.  Please ignore the upended chairs which the nasty wind has blown over. 

Although things are way too early this year, all my efforts to convince them to slow down have gone unheeded.  The plants just don’t know what to do with this rollercoaster ride of highs and lows and as a result it’s been a kind of crappy spring with snowdrops peaking and then wilting in a few days of heat, hailstorms knocking everything down, cold weather keeping the depressing wreckage at a standstill, another warm spell to snap things back into high speed, and then now this latest arctic blast.  Here’s the front border six days prior when only a few weather beaten crocus were up.  At least I had enough time to raid the neighborhood dump and mulch the border with plenty of nicely chopped leaves.

mixed perennial border mulched with leaves

A nice mulch of shredded leaves will do wonders smothering the weeds this summer and feeding the soil all spring.  I wish I had more!

In less than a week we’ve jumped ahead to the peak of the daffodil season.  Last fall I wanted to mix in a few more of the bright yellows so I snapped up a batch of 50 from Van Engelen and haphazardly spread them throughout the border.  I tend to enjoy a more natural look and the scattered planting combined with the wildflowery long noses on this cultivar makes them appear as if they’ve been there much longer than a few months.  I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned this or if I’ve repeated it a dozen times, but daffodils which hold on to the long trumpets and backswept petals of the original N. cyclamineus species are by far my favorite types 🙂

daffodil tweety bird

Daffodil ‘Tweety Bird’, a product of Brent and Becky Heath’s breeding program, filling in where I pulled out an invasive burning bush last fall.

One, and possibly the only, thing good about frequent cold spells is that some of the daffodils are showing their deepest, glamour shot colors without the fading which normally occurs in the warmer weather.  Here in a cool bed which is shaded by a fence, ‘Jetfire’ is looking almost fluorescent with its orange cup.  I’ve never seen it this bright before, and hopefully this is a good start for this bed since I’m still into the months long process of killing the most persistent weeds here with a double shot of thick mulch and weed killing spray.  Maybe by the start of this summer I can finally refill this open land with all kinds of new goodies!

daffodil narcissus jetstar

Narcissus (or daffodil if you prefer) ‘Jetstar’ blooming with some unusually bright color this spring.  This is one of  my most reliable daffs 🙂

Another thing you may or may not know is that I tend to have a lot of favorite daffodils, and that’s because I grow a good assortment to choose from, and I challenge anyone to stick to just one favorite!  Narcissus ‘Rapture’ is an award winning, American bred daffodil with just the kind of cyclamineus genes I love.  Look at those cute little reflexed petals and long trumpet!  As you can see by the neighboring empty spots, not all daffodils have done as well in this location, since at one time this bed was fully planted.

daffodil narcissus rapture

A nice fat clump of Narcissus ‘Rapture’.  If I didn’t already have so much yellow out front I’d surely spread this one around the mixed border along the street.

But of course the up and down weather is even beginning to wear on the daffodils.  Arctic blasts of cold burnt the early tips of many of the more trusting varieties.

freeze damage on daffodil

The jonquil types of daffodil sprout just a little too early for our zone.  This is probably ‘Pipit’ or ‘Hillstar’ and even in a good year the tips of the foliage get singed by too cold weather extremes. 

It’s all or nothing for some of these daffodils which carry the genes of the more southern N. jonquilla.  If it’s a cold winter they hunker down and don’t poke up their heads until the weather has settled, but in an unsettled winter they keep on trying to get started during every warm spell.

narcissus daffodil tiny bubbles

Narcissus ‘Tiny Bubbles’ with a freeze damaged ‘Kokopelli’ behind it.  I like the dainty flowers on ‘Tiny Bubbles’ but I wish either the foliage was shorter or the blooms up a little higher. 

The unsettled winter crushed this year’s hellebore show.  I should have seen that coming since last fall they looked better than ever and were poised to bloom their heads off.  So much for that.

picotee hellebore

Here’s one which managed to come out and open perfectly between the frigid blasts of cold.  There are singed and damaged flowers all around but this one with its dark centers and perfectly veined blooms is enough to make me smile. 

Of course I have my favorites among the hellebores as well.

yellow hellebore

Even with a few damaged centers and singed outers the buttery yellow of this hellebore keeps it on my best-of-the-hellebores list 🙂

Any opinions on this picotee hellebore growing in the front border?  It’s doing very well in spite of the fact nearly all its neighbors were frozen back to their crowns…

picotee hellebore

Would you call this a yellow picotee hellebore?  I like the red shading and subtle color, but suspect it might not jump out at everyone.

I guess it’s time for a reality check.  Here are the daffodils this morning as the cold wind howls outside.

daffodil frozen in snow

The front foundation border once again covered in snow. 

To be honest I hope the snow predicted for tonight also comes through.  The garden can use a little bit of extra cover to help it out when the low temperatures drop to 19F (-7C) for both Monday and Tuesday.  Whatever.

frozen hyacinth

All the early bulbs flattened and frozen by a late cold snap.  You can bet my fingers are crossed they make it through this….

It’s normal for everything to wilt as it freezes, and that’s a good thing since too much water in the stems will cause them to burst as the water expands, but I’m not sure exactly what else will survive the upcoming deep freeze.  I’m writing off the wisteria, even the barely expanded buds will most likely die off, and the hyacinths will be mush, but I’m most worried about the tulips and daffodils.  A few years ago a one night cold snap permanently ‘did in’ a bunch of tulips, this longer spell has me more worried, and I have many more now than I did back then.

C’est la vie.  Maybe I’ll order a few new cannas today, and dream of a beautiful June garden.  April and May are kind of iffy right now, but as long as the birds sing and the sun is warm we’ll be fine…. tulips or not.

Snowdropping 2016

*ok so I’m trying to get back onto the blogging ball.  With a schedule finally cleared up I have a bunch of catching up to do here as well as on other blogs… so flashback to something I began writing about two weeks ago!*

Spring doesn’t normally roll around to this end of Pennsylvania until the end of March,  but this year on the tail end of El Nino it looks as if winter has just thrown in the towel and let spring walk right in a few weeks early.  “Sit down and stay a while” I say, and although I should speak glowingly about my own spring treasures in bloom right now, my first panicked thought was I might miss the snowdrop season down south.  I promptly sent out a few emails, jumped in a car and met up with my friend Paula at a park near her home for our second annual Philly snowdrop adventure.

naturalized snowdrops united states

Snowdrops naturalized on the grounds of a former Philadelphia estate.

Last year our snowdrop adventure was a response to the miserably long winter, this year it was a desperate attempt to catch the season before it flashed by.  We made the trip on March 8th and even though we were nearly a month earlier than last year many of the earlier bloomers were already past.

leucojum vernus yellow

A nice yellow tipped spring snowflake (Leucojum vernum) blooming amidst the rubble.

In spite of the advanced season we did manage to catch plenty of snowdrops still in bloom, and it was fun wandering from patch to patch searching for those little “specials”.  Maybe someday after a hundred years of abandonment and years of gentle woodland protection my own garden will produce something different but for now I’ll have to rely on these hidden treasures.

naturalized snowdrops galanthus nivalis

We saw plenty of patches of four petalled snowdrops, but also a wonderful range of larger and smaller, thinner, longer, taller…. all the tiny variations on white and green which may make some gardeners yawn, but which make me smile.

But there was only so much time we could spend sweating our way through the underbrush.  We had bigger fish to fry this morning and for us it was a visit to John Lonsdale’s Edgewood Gardens.  John grows and sells (but more just grows and grows) about a billion plants in his suburban landscape and the plantings range from high desert cactus to mountain to woodland to everything in between.  I was lost on much of it but I’m going to try my best and show a few favorites even if the names are lacking.  If you are more cat-like and on the verge of death due to some unsatisfied identity curiosity then I would absolutely suggest contacting John directly via his website.  He will surely have an ID for you, as well as cultural conditions, related cultivars, the exact source of his plant…. and to top it all off he probably grew it himself from wild collected seed!

iris and hardy cactus

A beautiful species iris right alongside hardy cacti.  Did I mention the cactus?  There were beds planted full of them as well as agaves and yucca, all surviving the Pennsylvania snow and ice without any additional winter protection.

I need to just move on here.  I love growing bulbs and there were more here than I’ve ever even considered so here are just the highlights of our visit.  Keep in mind the calendar is still saying winter for a few more weeks and the real show is still at least two months off!

eranthis guinea gold

Winter aconite (Eranthis species)  galore in the Lonsdale garden.  We missed the peak for many of the Eranthis hyemalis types but these crosses with Eranthis cilicica (similar to the ‘Guinea Gold’ cross) were just opening…. don’t let the label throw you off, that’s for something else yet to come right in front of this patch of gold.

At nearly 80F (26C) and sunny even a few of the first primula were opening.

pale yellow hardy primula

The winter may have been short, but even here a sudden drop to around 0F (-17C) did its damage to winter foliage and early sprouts.  Still bright and beautiful though, and its location on what looked to be a dry shaded slope has me rethinking how tough primroses can be.

Hellebores were everywhere.

speckled hellebore

Just a plain old hellebore which caught my eye.  a little winter damage but I love the speckling.

John said he was in the process of working through the hellebores, getting rid of many older and self seeded plants, and ‘upgrading’ some of the hybrids… and I wish him luck.  There were hundreds, if not thousands, and it would take a more critical eye than mine to thin the herd.

hellebore anna's red

One of the newer, cross-species hellebore cultivars.  I forgot what it was, but maybe it’s ‘Anna’s Red’?

Plenty of hellebore species as well.  All over the garden were bits and shoots coming up from seed collected throughout the hellebore world.

green hellebore

A cool green species hellebore.  Green may not be the showiest flower color but they sure look great close up.

hellebore tibetanus

Hailing from China is Helleborus thibetanus. This plant was only just brought into cultivation in the 1990’s and if you can believe it John says this plant plant produced only one flower last year. What a difference a single year can make!

Trilliums were also everywhere.  John kept naming species, naming ranges and ecotypes, naming seed sources, describing how many were yet to come…. it was all a little overwhelming.  I think to return in May and see patches and patches of trilliums blooming across the hillside would be quite the sight.

trillium foliage

One of the earliest trilliums already up.  The foliage is just amazing and there were hundreds more sprouting or just waiting to burst out of the ground.

There were tons of early trout lilies (Erythronium) coming up as well.  More cool foliage, exquisite flowers 🙂

trout lilies erythronium

Just a few of the earliest of the trout lilies coming up.  I love the fine markings on these and the fancy purple pollen just as much as the silvery speckling on the leaves.

I’ve never seen blooming Hepatica (liverwort) in person but recognized the little jewels the minute I saw them.  Maybe this will finally be the spring I venture out into the woods and find a few blooms of my own in the wild.  I’ll be excited to find anything, but suspect they won’t hold a candle to some of the selections and hybrids which we saw springing up out of the leafmould.

red hepatica

What color on such a tiny bloom.

violet hepatica

The detail on these flowers is amazing in all its intricate perfection.

It was also well into Adonis season.  Several cultivars were spotted throughout the beds and each one seemed better than the last and we hit them perfectly with their flowers open wide in the warm winter sun.  The saturated colors were almost too bright for an early March afternoon.

double yellow adonis

Double yellow Adonis Amurensis

I’ve heard that this native of NE Asia isn’t all that hard to grow it’s just a little slow to start and a little pricey to get a hold of.  Spring sun and a sheltered woodland location for the summer seem to work well for it, just know that the ferny foliage dies back and the plant disappears once the weather warms for summer.

orange adonis cultivar

An orange Adonis cultivar with a nice bunch of hardy cyclamen leaves.  Cyclamen were nearly everywhere, I began to not notice them unless I had to step over a particularly nice one seeded into the path 🙂

fringed orange adonis

Dark ferny foliage, a fringed pale orange flower…. what’s not to like about this Adonis?

We spent way too much time at John’s but it wasn’t until we checked our watches that we realized how much we had actually imposed on his day!  The poor guy had just finished up about ten days of on the road and had been through more states in a week than I hit in a year and here we were not even giving him enough time to enjoy his first day back.  So we tried to get a move on it, thanked him again for his hospitality and time, and then rushed through the last hordes of snowdrops, cyclamen, and cacti between us and the exit… did I mention the cacti?  I could easily fill a second visit with just the cacti (not that I’m really hinting).

Off to Paula’s!

snowdrops galanthus in garden beds

Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis mostly) scattered throughout the garden beds.

Paula has really put in some work into collecting and dividing and spreading snowdrops throughout her garden, and it’s really an inspiration to see the possibilities of what a few years hard work can produce.  It makes me wonder when and if my own garden will ever start to show a similar effect of late winter interest.  There were goodies everywhere and of course it was the snowdrops which I really honed in on.

galanthus elwesii

Nice established clumps of Galanthus elwesii (the ‘giant snowdrop’) with it’s bigger blooms and grayer foliage.

Paula really has a great winter garden going with snowdrops galore and plenty of color from the earliest bloomers.  It’s here where we wound down from our latest snowdrop adventure.

double snowdrops galanthus and hellebores

Double snowdrops (Galanthus ‘flore pleno’) and hellebores fill in a shaded slope.

There were hellebores, winter aconite, snowdrops, snowflakes, witch hazels, crocus, all kinds of flowers coming out to brave the last few weeks of winter.

raspberry veined hellebore

A real nice raspberry veined hellebore.  I really need to do a little ‘upgrading’ of my own!

Of course we got bogged down in examining every tiniest bloom and discussed every growing nuance.  That’s what makes these garden visits so special.

galanthus gloria

Galanthus ‘Gloria’, a perfect flower with such long inners with just the smallest touch of white.  I really like these ‘pocs’ where the inner petals nearly match the long white outers.

By this point my winter knees were starting to complain about all the kneeling and bending which I’d been putting them through all day.  Maybe I should have started getting back into gardening shape a few weeks earlier, but in spite of the little aches and slower pace we carried on for a few more closeups.

galanthus doncasters double charmer

You almost wouldn’t guess this were a snowdrop, but it’s Galanthus ‘doncasters double charmer’ in all its crazy, spiky, greenness.

And a final snowdrop….

galanthus big boy

Galanthus ‘big boy’, just coming up and already big even before it expands to its full size.  The green tips are a nice touch and I think I like it!

And then the day was over.  Time to hop in the car and head back North.

orange witch hazel jelena

An orange witch hazel (Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ ) in full bloom as the day ends.

A special thanks to John Lonsdale for a great visit, and thanks of course to Paula for putting up with me for the whole day.  It wouldn’t have been half as much fun without her, and when we were pulled over and asking a stranger if they’d mind us traipsing around in their side yard looking at the snowdrops I knew I had the right travel buddy.  Until next year!

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

A few weeks ago I posted about the trouble with idle hands and how they were inching me over to the dark side.  It sounded funny at the time but the string of bad luck and minor tragedy which followed reassured me that there will be no deals made on this end and I would in fact like to stay on the lighter side.  So to sum it up surgery has been scheduled for some, blood tests every three months for others, stitches have been removed, and the family has a new bunny.  Hopefully garden cleanup will now continue to bring us back into good graces.  It’s about time for both 🙂

yard cleanup perennial beds

The front yard is definitely looking a little wild and wooly now that the snow has melted.  Probably time to get rid of the sled.

Cleanup has been ongoing all week (in between April showers) and this morning the sunshine and leftover morning frost are making the front yard glisten with springtime promise.

front yard garden cleanup

front yard garden cleanup

The view from inside the front door was also in need of some sprucing up.

messy yard spring cleanup

I sometimes think my entire neighborhood is an advertisement for plastic and vinyl.

Cleanup this spring is nearly all power tools.  Everything gets cut down with the hedge trimmer into manageable bits and then the largest bits are raked onto the lawn for mowing up into the bag.  The bag is then emptied onto the beds out back.  The front yard then gets a nice topping off with shredded leaves from last fall’s cleanup.  Not only do the shredded leaves cover up all the twigs and debris I was too lazy to remove, they also frame the first crocus nicely.

spring garden cleanup mulch

Mulched leaves on the beds and the lawn mowed at its lowest setting.  Things look better already.

Work has an annoying way of getting in the way of spring cleanup, but whenever I have a chance it feels great to get out there again.  The birds follow behind looking for worms and the kids rediscover all the messes they can make with the most simple of tools.  Spring mud and mulchpiles are fun but I’m just happy enough to see plants finally growing again in the open air.

hardy cyclamen with leucojum vernum

The pink cyclamen coum look much better this spring even after our insulting amount of cold and snow.  Temperatures were actually lower than last winter but a good amount of leaves and flower buds made it through and at least I have something to set off the spring snowflake (leucojum vernum) flowers this year.

I’ve added an embarrassing amount of snowdrops since last year.  These showed up in the mail one day as a baggie full of washed clean, sprouting bulbs.  I planted them immediately and they are perfect this spring.  In contrast the dry bulbs of the same type which looked perfect upon planting barely sprouted last spring and have now died off completely.

double snowdrop galanthus flore pleno

The double snowdrop (galanthus ‘flore pleno’) hopefully settling in nicely under the apple tree.  FYI -the apple tree is that twig at the back of the photo 🙂

I will bore you with more snowdrops at a later date but for now other spring bulbs.

corydalis George baker

The first corydalis, this one’s “George Baker”, looking good and reminding me I should divide my other overcrowded clumps.

Ok one more snowdrop.

galanthus wonston double

Galanthus ‘Wonston Double’.  I have to keep reminding myself I don’t like doubles.

This little bulb who’s name I will never be able to spell without looking up (scilla mischtschenkoana) is one of those unassuming things which you never NEED but you should always have.  This one’s been with me for a while going all the way back to a single stray bulb which must have been overlooked or abandoned by squirrels after all its brothers and sisters had been planted.  Being the daring teen who I was and feeling a little dangerous, I pocketed the bulb and brought it home.  Somehow it survived being unplanted all winter and within a few weeks even put out the first of many pale, icy blue flowers.  It has never reseeded (likely because they’re all the clone descendants of one single bulb) but it’s multiplied and followed me from garden to garden over the decades.  hmmmm.  I should go back to that park some day and see how the original planting has made out.

Scilla mischtschenkoana

Scilla mischtschenkoana.

The hellebores are starting as well.  This one is right up against the porch foundation and lives the good life.

white ashwood hybrid hellebore

I bought this one as a white Ashwood seedling from Santa Rosa Gardens.  I bought this one as a started plant, but deep down inside I covet seeds from the Ashwood line.  They’re either crazy expensive or I just can’t find them here in the states.

A few of the other hellebores are also coming along.  Drought last summer has really taken a bite out of this year’s show but the real killer was my transplanting several and then not really bothering to give them any aftercare.  A sprinkler would have done wonders in August, but you can’t dwell on these things in April.

double pink hellebore from seed

A nice double pink hellebore from Elizabethtown seed.  I’m glad I had the chance to buy seed from them before they closed retail sales…. but I’m still missing all the cool seedlings coming along each spring.

Last spring’s late blasts of arctic weather didn’t please the hellebores at all but this year the more settled pattern has done them well.  I finally get to see a nice clean bloom on my yellow.

yellow hellebore from seed

This one, also from Elizabethtown seed, looks buttery enough for me to think ‘yummy!’  I’ve been wanting a yellow like this for years.  Wish me luck it clumps up and continues to do well 🙂

The warmer temperatures and singing birds have me completely optimistic and I’m starting to rake back the winter mulch from around my late fall conifer splurge from Conifer Kingdom.  They all look great and I’m hoping for healthy new growth in a few weeks.  Just think… if my blue spruce (p. pungens ‘Walnut Glen’) doubles in size this year it may break the four inch mark!

late planting conifer winter protection

A late planting of conifers still snuggled in under a thick winter mulch of shredded leaves.  Time to start peeling it back.

So spring is finally here.  The sun is shining this morning and I’m buying pansies today.  The only snow left are snowdrops and since I paid a visit to the Temple nursery on Saturday you’re still going to have to sit through that, but fortunately the pictures aren’t all that great so you’ll be spared much of the repeating white and green.  Enjoy!

Should I cut my hellebores back?

Now is the time of year when this question always comes up.  In milder climates where the winter foliage on hellebores stays halfway decent year-round it’s more of a question, but here it’s a no-brainer.  As soon as the weather eases up and I can work outside without being miserable, all the hellebore foliage comes off, brown or not.  This winter especially, the normally attractive leaves are a disaster and won’t be missed at all by the plants.removing hellebore foliage

They look this way all over the garden and now that the snow is in retreat (hopefully) I can’t wait to clear this mess out.  Even in years when the leaves are looking ok I still get rid of them and the plants don’t miss a beat.  I think the blooms show off much better against a clean background and fresh leaves will be coming up soon enough 🙂

Just for the record, when I first started with hellebores I used to treasure each and every green leaf that made it through winter, and carefully left them in place while removing only the damaged ones.  My thinking of course was that every green bit helped the plant produce food.  While that’s true, the few weeks of photosynthesis lost doesn’t seem to make a difference, and I’ve learned the plants are much tougher than I give them credit for.  The only exception to this rule would be if you’re growing any of the taller stemmed (caulescent type) hellebores.  Don’t cut them to the ground, the tall stem will be sprouting blooms at this time of year, and you’ll only want to remove damaged leaves.

Hopefully my “little Gem” southern magnolia will be as resilient as the hellebores.  cold damaged southern magnoliaIt’s also sporting brown and damaged leaves, but I suspect it will also pull through.  My scenario for this plant will be a complete loss of leaves once the weather warms, and then new growth in May…. it will look worse for a while, but my fingers are crossed and even with temps back down in the single digits tonight I’m trying for optimism 🙂

Surprise Hellebore

I planted out a bunch of neglected hellebore seedlings early last fall and hoped they would have time to root in before winter really set in.  Apparently they did.  This double red seedling from Elizabethtown seed really took off and even put out a bloom.double red hellebore

The rest of the seedlings are much smaller and may consider a flower by next year, this one really surprised me.  Needless to say I’m pleased as punch since this one is my first seed grown double…. so far….

My biggest issue with late plantings such as these is frost heave, when freezing and thawing pushes the plants up out of the soil and kills them through exposure, but that’s usually the only problem for these tough growers.  I’ve found a nice mulch of chopped leaves gives them enough insulation to protect them throughout the winter, even in this exposed spot.  Then the mulch just stays there as they start to grow.  Good drainage in the raised beds is also a plus.

They’re in the middle of the vegetable garden, which might be the next problem.  It’s full, baking sun which they seem to like unless they dry out too often too severely.  Hopefully when I pass by each day I’ll be smart enough to keep an eye on watering needs.

Now I just need to find a new spot for the tomatoes.

A few good hellebores

In the last 4-5 years I’ve noticed that hellebores have entered the tissue culture world. It was just a matter of time I guess, but I feel like it takes away a little bit of the magic and mystery of these plants….. but on the other hand there’s no way I would have ever gotten my hands on some of the newer complicated (usually sterile) cross-species cultivars that are showing up.hellebore "HGC Silvermoon"

This “HGC Silvermoon” is a heavy bloomer with an interesting color.  It’s attractively planted too close to a construction area and the bricks are supposed to remind me not to step on it.  Too bad the leaves get beat up by the ice and snow, I’ve seen it in bloom with foliage intact and it looks so much better.  But you get what you get when you’re too lazy to offer up any winter protection.

hellebore "Cinnamon Snow"“Cinnamon Snow” is from a similar cross involving 2 different species.  I could google the info and come off as sounding pretty smart but it’s late and I don’t think I’d be fooling anyone.  I believe one of the parents is H. Niger, commonly known as the Christmas Rose, and I think this is the first time I’ve got a nice bloom on this plant.  It’s in a sheltered spot so the leaves hold up well, but the sheltered spot also brings the blooms up early so they tend to freeze, abort and not open fully.

The “other” hellebores are the regular hybrid hellebores.  They’re a mix of several species, they set seed easily and run a range of colors from white to mauve to purple to nearly black.  There are some greens and yellows now and with spotting and doubles the range keeps getting bigger.  Nearly all of my plants are from seed, but tissue culture clones are showing up here too.  These here are all from Australian Elizabethtown seed (now sadly closed).hellebore hybridus

anemone flowered hellebore

I’m still waiting for the fancier ones to grow up and bloom, but I do have a couple anemone flowered (a flower part-way between single and double) starting to put on a decent show…. I hate when any part of my hand shows up in a picture, but hellebores tend to nod and sometimes you need a helping hand to peek inside.

Since many hellebores are seed grown there’s always the chance your plant will be a dud when it blooms, and it’s not a bad idea to avoid buying them sight unseen, but if you go with a decent source your chances for a good ‘un are much better.  I would bet that most people in the anti-hellebore camp (if one exists) have only seen poor quality seed grown plants.  Get good seed and be patient, things will work out.

hellebore hybridNext year should be a good hellebore year.  I have way too many seedlings coming along and have actually been taking pretty good care of them.  I’m hoping for doubles, yellows, picotees…. all the fancy new types that I don’t have yet.  The nursery plants are usually out of my budget, but give me a packet of seeds and a couple years and I’m right there with a decent hellebore bed.