April 25, 2011

Spring Hellebores

I DECIDED TO PICK A SELECTION OF HELLEBORE FLOWERS, SO THAT I COULD APPRECIATE THEIR INDIVIDUALITY. IN THE GARDEN, THEY SOMETIMES LOOK SIMILAR, OR ONE ONLY SEE's THIER BACK. HERE, A BEE'S EYE VIEW.

TODAY, HELLEBORES COME IN MANY COLORS, FROM SLATE GREY TO BRIGHT GREEN AND ALMOST YELLOW.

I've only been growing Helleborus  for about 15 years, and if there is one thing that I have learned, it's that Hellebores take time to get established. Those first plants that I planted in my ephemeral border, because it is a border shaded under a canopy of deciduous trees, and one that I do not mulch with wood bark. This is also a border comprised mostly of herbaceous wild flowers and bulbs like Anemone neomarica, Corydalis, native wild flowers and a bed that remains undisturbed for must of the year, aside from a fresh mulch of shredded native leaves).
Helleborus species are long lived, but it does that some skill in carefully siting them, and in caring for them until they become 'established'. You may be tempted to buy a 5 gallon container at a nursery thinking that you are getting a jump ahead of your neighbors, but you will find that no matter how carefully try not to disturb the roots, that you will still get a plant less vigorous the following year, until roots become established. Hellebores are very long lived plants in the garden, and they are worth the investment, for most are 'an investment', but I advise that you follow a few rules if you want to have more than the average success.

1. Prepare the site to their liking. Hellebores are not acid lovers, so use plenty of limestone both in the hole, and in a 2 foot perimeter. Site the plants in a place where they can thrive under a tall canopy of deciduous trees, so that they leaves can fall and remain in the ground. The site should be a place where you rarely dig or fuss in, for Hellebores dislike any root disturbance.

2. Buy young plants. Sure, you will have to wait longer for your first blooms, but the long-lived roots need time to extend, and once they begin wrapping and winding around inside a nursery pot, then you've lost an opportunity for them to venture out on their own.


3.Dont' mulch with wood bark. The best and favored much is a natural one, preferably one made from composted leaves, or leaves from your garden put through a shredder, and gently spread around the plants ( just as in nature). If you use a leaf much, you will begin to see seedlings, and self-sown Hellebores are a sign that you've mastered the art of Hellebore culture!

4.In the spring, don't remove the old foliage from last year ( which is often pressed down by snow onto the grown and starting to brown) until the flowers emerge and bloom. This is key, and being patient is difficult when the old foliage looks so ugly, but these old leaves are still working, and even though they may look ugly and un-tidy, be patient in cutting them off until mid May, even though the new foliage is beginning to rise. I wait until the stamens fall off of the flowers, and when the seedpods are forming.


BLACK OR GREY HELLEBORES ARE VERY COLLECTABLE. TOP RIGHT, 'STARLING', BOTTOM LEFT, 'SLATE'.

A FIVE YEAR OLD PLANT IS STILL ADJUSTING, BUT THIS YEAR, 3 STEMS WITH FLOWERS HAVE ARRIVED..

A PLANT WHICH IS ABOUT TEN YEARS OLD, AND NOT A FANCY ONE. THIS CAME FROM A HOME DEPOT.

EVERY YEAR, THERE ARE MORE AND MORE VARIETIES AVAILABLE. I TRY TO ADD AT LEAST ONE EVERY YEAR TO MY COLLECTION BECAUSE THEY ARE EXPENSIVE. LITTLE-BY-LITTLE, THE COLLECTION GROWS.

7 comments :

  1. I love how you say you have "only" been growing hellebores for 15 years LOL!

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  2. Hi Matt,

    Good point about them not being acid-loving plants. I find a lot of people do mulch them along with all their other shade-garden plants, but hellebore are not a typical shade-garden plant!
    The colors look lovely against the stone in your photos. It's too bad these flowers don't last very long when cut.

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  3. Nice blog post, the dark ones always stop me in my tracks...

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  4. It sure is hellebore time in the northeast. Mine started blooming in March so are a bit ahead of yours, they are starting to turn color.

    I have to say that I have been advised that they can grow in sunny spots and some in the wild are growing out in open meadows in Croatia. I started mine from seed and after about two years growing them in pots, I had to get them in the ground. At the advice of a friend I put them in the sunny vegetable garden. They have been there for a few years and grew great. They are at least 12" across, with lots of flowers. I did not amend my soil, it is acidic in my area. I cut most of my leaves off in December or early March.

    I think in the south they may need more shade but they are not just a shade plant.

    Last fall I transplanted them from the veggie garden to a new bed. They are blooming without missing a beat.

    Thought I would pass on my experience so it can broaden the use of them in different areas in the garden. Species hellebores I think are a bit more tricky to grow.

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  5. I planted my 1st hellebores last fall. I'm so amazed with them that I'll buy more this fall. I just never thought they would grow in Iowa. Great photos. They really Are beautiful.

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  6. Matt,
    Good article, enjoyed reading it and learned a few things. My hellebores are 3 years old and new ones every year. They do take adjustment. Out garden is in an oak forest with dappled light and clay soil.

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  7. I have been having a lovely time reading your blog. Did you ever do a post on how you made your greenhouse? It is so wonderful...

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