Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Hellebores (27 FEB 2013)

Like many other gardeners, for the past two years, I have cut away the hellebore leaves when the flower buds appeared to allow the flowers to shine.
In fact last year I cut the leaves too early, allowing me to witness the unbelievable resilience of these plants. The flowers bowed down to the ground, forecasting snowfall a couple of days later, then miraculously rose again when the snow had melted.

February 2012


However, this year they remain au naturel because one of them has been poorly. I wanted to see if allowing the plants to photosynthesise, the way it was intended, would make them healthier; the size of their leaves suggests that.

February 2013




 
The main reason I cut the leaves away before is because by February they would appear rather tired and messy. I didn’t have that excuse this year as the foliage still looks quite handsome, so I gave myself the challenge of taking some photos to convince readers to leave their pruners in the shed and just enjoy hellebores in all their glory.

 
It’s true that the mass of huge leaves hides the flowers almost completely so that they can’t be seen from the kitchen window, but once you take the effort to put on your coat and boots and kneel down to peek under the canopy, you will be in awe of the magical effect contributed by the green haze, complementing the tints in the flowers themselves.



The stigmas of the flowers are receptive to pollen before they produce their own, in the hope of cross-breeding. The stalks of the flowers are sturdier and shorter than those of the leaves so the flowers stand erect in the midst while the leaves splay out around, their serrated edges tickling the flowers as if trying to pollinate them … or maybe it’s the snails sheltering under the leaves which get the job done, even if it is unintentionally.
 


Reading advice on caring for hellebores, I probably should have divided this inherited clump a while ago as it’s quite large now, but then I thought that in natural habitats there’s no such division. Maybe I’ll wait for the clump to give me a sign that it needs to be divided, but for now it seems to be content, especially as it kept its leaves this year.
 
 

©Copyright 2013 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2013/02/hellebores-27-feb-2013.html

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Wallflowers (13 FEB 2013)

I’ve been spending my gardening time elsewhere, instead of planning planting schemes and organising seed packets in sowing order. I’m taking it easy this year, because past experience has shown that seeds sown too early aren’t so successful as the miscellaneous seedlings which sprout from a desperate sprinkling into a last resort seed-tray in late spring. Good things come to those who wait after all.

ugly duckling snatches a piece of the action

I don't want it to be a desperate sprinkling this time, following weeks of watering and waiting till all the nutrition has leeched out of the compost and the seeds sown with the first signs of spring are too sodden to germinate, till I'm so bored with the whole process that I can't be bothered to sow neat rows in fresh compost again and label.
 
When I eventually opened the backdoor to see what was happening out there, I found holes/craters dug by foxes and their droppings on the lawn, which are sure signs that I’ve been neglecting the garden. I wonder if daily patrols, leaving the scent of human in the air to mark my territory, would stop animals interfering.
 
Daffodils ...
 
The usual suspects, hellebores and heather were out, but I was cheered most by the wallflowers, new additions grown from seed.
 
Wallfowers
 
It’s possible to trick biennials into flowering within a year if the plants are over-wintered. I sowed wallflower seeds in pots outdoors in autumn 2011 hoping to see flowers by the following spring. That didn’t happen even though it was a cold winter with snow, but at least they have provided much-needed bushy ever-green foliage. Very un-cabbage-like for a plant in the brassica family .. and this year, finally, some flowers.




I couldn’t understand why the plants were travelling away from the fence which I’d planted them next to, expecting them to climb up, and instead were heading towards the patio stones.

Wallflowers stepping out : Spring 2012 & last week

While trying to research their preferred growing conditons, I discovered that the name wallflower comes from the plant precariously rooting itself in walls rather than shyly standing against them as their namesakes in 19thcentury dance halls. It sounds improbable but there's a picture on the web to prove it. Their preference apart from walls (or patio stones in my case) is infertile, well-drained soil.
 
Wallflowers are not the prettiest but they have character
(... or at least they're intelligent, deciding to flower when there's less competition.)
 

I planted one in a wall as an experiment, so it could get back in touch with its roots. It was almost symbolic because I suppose people would label me as a wallflower of sorts, I’ve never even been to a dancehall/disco/nightclub let alone stand by the wall declining.
 
Time for this wallflower to live a little dangerously
 
Wallflowers are not the only ones who like well-drained soil.
I guess the foxes excavate the dry flower-bed under the neighbour's trees to save wetting their paws.
One of the craters is now filled with broken cement and spare wallflowers which look scared to death.
I've promised them that I'll patrol daily from now on.
 
Wallflowers stretching their comfort zone
 

©Copyright 2013 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2013/02/wallflowers-13-feb-2013.html
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