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Posts Tagged ‘Helleborus’

Helleborus orientalis begin blooming in mid to late winter.

On Groundhog Day, ‘Punxsutawney Phil’ predicted a speedy end to winter and we were all eagerly anticipating an early spring.

This morning wet snow and sleet lay on the ground

This morning wet sleet
lay on the ground

At the time, it seemed like he might be spot on but less than a week later came the big New England blizzard that dumped up to 3 feet of snow from northern New Jersey to Maine with Boston getting clobbered with the brunt of the storm. Since then we have had two major March snow storms here in the Shenandoah Valley and believe it or not, a winter weather advisory for snow and sleet came across my computer yesterday afternoon and by 6:45 pm it was snowing like crazy!

Oh for Pete’s sake – what do groundhogs know anyway! All they do in my yard is dig in my garden, eat my vegetables, and cause me a big headache!

Quince buds

Quince buds

Yesterday morning, I took a walk through the Viette gardens to see if I could find some signs of spring. It was quite cold and pretty cloudy – not at all spring-like! The gardens are all cleaned up and ready, but spring is still holding out. Of course many of the daffodils and a few of the other spring bulbs are up and blooming beautifully and I can tell spring isn’t too far off because the buds on many of the trees and shrubs are quite swollen and many are beginning to show the tiniest bit of color.

Forsythia just beginning to pop.

Forsythia is just beginning to pop.

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A few bright yellow flowers have popped open on the forsythia but most of the buds are still pretty tight. The buds on the flowering quince are nice and plump, just waiting for a warm April day to push them along. I have a feeling that all it’s going to take is a few warm, sunny days and spring will be bursting forth in a gush of blooms!

Mahonia repens

Mahonia repens

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A striking plant in the garden at this time of year is the low-growing Mahonia repens. Its deep burgundy winter foliage makes a gorgeous backdrop for the bright clusters of chartreuse flower buds. Later in April, these buds will open into racemes of beautiful deep yellow flowers and the holly-like evergreen foliage will gradually develop its deep blue-green summer color.

A beautiful black hellebore

A beautiful black hellebore

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The Viettes have a wonderful diversity of Helleborus planted throughout the gardens including some very unique new cultivars. These are all in full bloom and have actually been blooming for several months. They are truly one of the first flowers of the season!

The herbaceous peonies in the gardens are just beginning to poke up through the ground, though the ones growing in more exposed areas are not up as high as those that are more protected.

Just a reminder – if you had problems with botrytis blight last year, now is the time to spray these newly emerging peonies with the first round of a fungicide like Mancozeb or liquid copper according to the label directions.

Tree peony buds and young foliage

Tree peony buds and young foliage

The tree peonies are also beginning to break dormancy and their new foliage has a lovely pinkish-red tint. These miniature stems and leaves were enveloping the swelling flower buds and created a very interesting pattern when observed up close –
subtle beauty in the garden can be found everywhere!

Tree peonies are my favorite type of peony. I just love how they look in the garden with their giant crepe paper blooms covering the tall shrub-like plant. Cultivars bearing single, semi-double, or double blooms can be found in a wide variety of colors and many even have a lovely fragrance. Tree peonies often begin blooming in early May, several weeks earlier than the herbaceous peonies, and because they have woody stems, they don’t usually fall over from the weight of the flowers. Spectacular!

Intersectional or Itoh peony

Intersectional or Itoh peony

Andre’s yellow intersectional peony (a.k.a. Itoh peony) ‘Bartzella’ has loads of nice fat buds on it. This interesting new peony type, which is a cross between an herbaceous peony and a tree peony, combines many of the best traits of each of its parents. It produces multitudes of large, crepe-like blooms on strong stems that hold up in the wind and rain, yet it dies back to the ground and gets cut back in the fall like the herbaceous peonies. The foliage is similar to tree peony foliage and remains attractive through the fall. A very nice plant and worth having in the garden, though they sell out fast in the spring!

Lamium maculatum

Lamium maculatum

Some of the early blooming perennials are just peeking up and some even have a few blooms popping out already. The Lamium maculatum which has made a wonderful ground cover around a small water garden is blooming quite nicely although its foliage hasn’t completely filled out yet. I also discovered a beautiful Pulmonaria that had pushed up a few short flower scapes even though its foliage was just beginning to emerge.

Spring IS coming – don’t you worry! My fear is that it will come and go too quickly. Spring is one of my favorite seasons and I really hope that when it finally does arrive, it stays for a while!

Until next time – Happy Spring!

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Helleborus niger

What a strange winter we are having this year! Warm and wet, then colder and dry. Mother Nature can’t seem to make up her mind. Personally, I’ve been waiting all winter for a nice snow storm. Even while we were in Vermont over Christmas and New Year’s, there were just a few snow showers – although happily, we did wake up to a dusting of snow on Christmas morning! It’s frustrating to me that, whenever precipitation is in the forecast, the temperatures are usually on the rise. I’m sure many other people are overjoyed about this though!

Rain drops bead up on a partly open Helleborus niger blossom

Rain drops bead up on a partly open Helleborus niger blossom

The warm winter weather has had a noticeable effect in the garden. My Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) lived up to its name this year. It was beginning to bloom in my garden by December 20th – the earliest I ever remember it coming into bloom. Last year they didn’t begin to bloom until early February! The warmer winter has no doubt contributed to the early appearance of these attractive flowers. Now it’s in full bloom – so beautiful.

One of my other hellebores, Helleborus foetidus, has been blooming since early December and it is still going strong. What a wonderful addition to the winter garden.

Helleborus foetidus has been blooming in my garden since early December. Clumps of Helleborus niger are visible in the distance.

Helleborus foetidus has been blooming since early December. Clumps of Helleborus niger are visible in the distance.

Helleborus foetidus reliably blooms by at least January in my gardens. The beautiful evergreen foliage and interesting chartreuse blooms are very eye-catching against the brown backdrop of the fallen oak leaves.

I found another surprise today when I went out to take some pictures of my hellebores – a single budding snowdrop (Galanthus)! I love these early blooming bulbs. We had several clusters planted right beside our front sidewalk in New Jersey when I was growing up. They often poked up through the snow in February bringing the promise of spring. We just planted some for my mom in Vermont when we visited over Thanksgiving.

Here’s hoping she’ll have some cheery snowdrop blooms to enjoy this spring!

They aren't up very much but it's distressing to see the flower buds up already!

It's distressing to see the daffodil flower buds up already!

A bit more distressing is the appearance of daffodils poking up through the leaves in our front flower beds. Unfortunately, it’s not just the foliage that has popped up but the flower stems with buds as well. I’m afraid this doesn’t bode well for my daffodil bloom for this spring. If just the foliage had come up, I wouldn’t worry as much but I’m not sure the flower buds can withstand a deep freeze – that is if we ever get one. These beds are fairly protected being right up close to the house but still …

On a walk through Andre’s gardens this afternoon, I noticed that many of his hellebores are blooming, too.

Beautiful Helleborus orientalis flowers have popped up through a layer of oak leaves in one of Andre's gardens.

Beautiful Helleborus orientalis flowers have popped up through a layer of oak leaves.

I also noticed that quite a few of his daffodils have popped up but I didn’t see any flower stems, just foliage. These gardens are more exposed than our front bed and I’m sure that has something to do with it, although it may also be a varietal difference. Hopefully when I check my gardens that are less protected, I’ll find that just the leaves have come up and no flower stems. The foliage can generally take the cold especially if it is covered with some pine boughs.

Will we have an early spring? Maybe – time will tell – but up and down the east coast, we’re still waiting for winter to happen!

I won’t hold my breath though; the long range forecast for our area doesn’t look much different than what we’ve been experiencing so far – highs in the 50’s almost everyday through the first week in February! Bummer – I’m ready for snow!

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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THe beautiful pure white flowers of Helleborus niger are a welcome sight in February.

The beautiful pure white flowers of Helleborus niger are a welcome sight in February.

I’ve been waiting for my Helleborus niger to bloom for a while now. Of all my Helleborus varieties, the white Helleborus niger is my favorite. The flowers are so beautiful and they make such a glorious display against the backdrop of fallen oak leaves in my garden.

The flower stems were just beginning to poke up on February 5th.

The flower stems were just beginning to poke up on February 5th.

I became impatient a few weeks ago and decided to poke around under the “mulch” of oak leaves to see if there was any sign of flowers. I was excited to discover a multitude of flower stems with beautiful pure white buds just beginning to form. Oh boy, it wouldn’t be long.

Two days ago, I looked out and there they were – bright white flowers with their beautiful yellow tipped stamens glistening in the sunshine! My first flowers of the new season! These blooms are the finest and most long-lasting of any winter flower, persisting for 2-3 months! What a wonderful treat in the midst of an otherwise dreary winter!

Blooming in all their glory on February 21st.

Blooming in all their glory on February 21st.

Helleborus foetidus has beautiful deeply divided foliage that adds wonderful texture to the garden.

Helleborus foetidus has beautiful deeply divided foliage that adds wonderful texture to the garden.

Another cool hellebore is Helleborus foetidus. The flowers of this species are not nearly as impressive but the plant is interesting just the same. It actually has nicer foliage in my mind. The finely cut older leaves are an attractive deep green tinged with red at the base. The new growth and airy clusters bell-shaped flowers are a contrasting apple-green. These plants really stand out in the early spring garden when nothing else is growing let alone blooming. They are one of the earliest of the hellebores to bloom, sometimes blooming as early as December.

 

Helleborus foetidus makes an interesting display in winter with its clusters of bright green flowers.

Helleborus foetidus makes an interesting display in winter with its clusters of bright green flowers.

Helleborus foetidus comes up readily from seed and often pops up throughout the garden, a trait that may annoy some gardeners but I just let it go in this particular garden because it makes such an attractive display. Every once in a while I go through and thin some of them out but for the most part, I just let them grow.

Helleborus orientalis is another popular species and I have a few of these planted in my garden as well. It has a variety of bloom colors from white to pink to deep burgundy.

Helleborus orientalis, Lenten Rose, blooms a bit later usually in late February or early March.

Helleborus orientalis, Lenten Rose, blooms a bit later usually in late February or early March.

As an added plus, all the Helleborus varieties are very deer resistant and make an excellent evergreen ground cover that the deer just won’t touch! Years ago when I was teaching horticulture, we took a trip to visit some beautiful private gardens in Lynchburg, Virginia. I remember one garden where Helleborus orientalis was used as a beautiful ground cover similar to how people use Pachysandra or Vinca. It was gorgeous when I was there in May but I imagine it was really spectacular in February, March, and April when the bed was in full bloom! Wow!

This attractive Helleborus orientalis has white flowers speckled with maroon.

This attractive Helleborus orientalis has white flowers speckled with maroon.

Helleborus are particularly well suited for planting under tall evergreen shrubs like Rhododendron or in a mixed woodland border in combination with other shade loving perennials such as ferns, Hosta, Epimedium, and Pulmonaria. They also make attractive plantings along woodland paths or planted in the rich, moist soil near a pond or other water feature.

Look for some of these great plants to put in your garden. They are wonderful for the shade or bright shade garden and there are some really cool new cultivars available!

Until next time –

Happy Gardening!

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