Before I started gardening, I thought I was fulfilled.
However, my Experiments with Plants directly and indirectly filled voids that I hadn't even recognised, lifting my happiness to a higher level.
This is a blog about a garden near London, England, and how it is changing my approach to life.
Sunday, 30 January 2011
Hellebores (30 JAN 2011)
In late autumn, when the excitement of the flowering season was over and I was taking stock, I saw this sprawling mess of leaves in the suntrap area of my garden and thought that I should get rid of this plant, and its partner growing in the shade, at the soonest opportunity. I had never watered them and didn't know their name. They were out of proportion with the rest of my garden, were taking up a lot of ground space and were an ideal hiding place for slugs & snails. I had vowed that I would keep all of the plants that Dorothy had left me but these were more weeds than garden plants, surely. I just needed to find something to replace them. Then it snowed and I hoped that Mother Nature would do me a favour, but she didn’t.
A couple of weeks ago, I was inspecting fox damage in my garden, when I spotted a pinkness amongst the leaves. Nestled in the centre where the leaves splayed apart were dark pink buds in one and pale pink in the other, which just goes to show it's all about timing sometimes, by beating the spring bulbs they captured my attention. I took a quick photo and asked Mr. F at work if he could identify it. Being a lawnsman, he didn't have a clue, but he printed it out to ask Mrs. F that evening. At the printer, he met a woman who gave her diagnosis. "Oi, Big Nose – it's a weed" he declared as he returned to his desk, which I accepted.
The next day Mrs. F reported that it was "Lenten Rose, Hellebore - a lovely plant".
The morals of this story are :
(1) Don't take advice from women you happen to meet at the works printer, not about gardening anyway.
(2) Have faith in your wife, especially if she is a gardening expert.
(3) Even the ugliest amongst us can shine if we pick the right moment to flower. (I just made this up, but I'm sure there's something that can be learnt from the hellebore.)
Hellebores are from the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and fall into two main categories stemmed and stemless. They say that most plants bought in garden centres are likely to be hybrids of the stemless varieties (ie. flowers and leaves grow separately from the underground rhizome).
However, this can be a bit confusing because these species sometimes grow leaf bracts around the flowers to help attract insects, which can be seen in my photos, the little leaves which look like extra petals. However, the true leaves in their photos looked more refined, which made me wonder if mine were hellebores after all.
Then googling "photos of hellebores", I found a picture with coarse leaves (I hope she doesn't mind me saying) similar to mine in Greenforks blog. She advised cutting back the leaves because it makes the plant less susceptible to Hellebore Leaf Spot, which I did, uncovering a snail graveyard in the process, but the flowers now seem exposed and vulnerable, and appear to have frozen in their bud state during the bitterly cold spell this week.
The advantages of the stemless hellebores is that they live longer and they can be split and replanted successfully. (You have to be quite brutal because the root ball is woody and the roots grow down deeper than you would expect.) I confirmed this because some of the buds above are now growing in Mr&Mrs F's front garden - just another experiment (you are supposed to wait till after they flower and split them between late spring and early autumn). I also brought some indoors in a pot to encourage the flowers to open before I published this post, but they didn't and I couldn't keep delaying ... so let's say there was some digital enhancement involved in producing this photo (ie. I opened it with my finger). Please visit Charlotte's Plot to see a lovely photo of a hellebore opening by itself and Carolynsshadegardens "Ode to Hellebores" to admire the work of a dedicated plantswoman. I think mine might be a bit closer to their ancestors than her specimens, having said that, those huge, glossy evergreen leaves, like hands reaching out, don't seem so ugly anymore. I think hellebores are growing on me.