Hellebores Thwart a Dismal Winter Day

Hellebores
Hellebore flowers open to five petals.

What flowers in the cold? Whose leaves are green all year but are especially noticeable in late grey of winter? Well the title gave it away. Hellebores. Not a very pretty name but the name is as memorable as the flowers. The flowers are cup-shaped to start and open to five petals. Some have a prickly looking circle of stamens in the center. They almost look like the flowers you draw in kindergarten.

Hellebores are evergreen perennials that grow in Zones 4-9. Depending upon the species and which zone they’re growing in, they may bloom anywhere from December to April. They generally bloom for four to six weeks. That means no matter how ugly the weather and how anxious you are to see spring arrive, Hellebores are in bloom.

Growing Hellebores

  • Most prefer a well-drained soil rich in humus. Most prefer an alkaline soil over acid soil.
  • Location requires you to think about winter and summer. Planting under a deciduous tree (leaves fall off before winter) gives them the sun they need to bloom in winter. Once the leaves grow on the tree or bush, Hellebores are protected from the heat of the summer sun. So – winter sun, summer shade.
  • Protect from wind when choosing a location to protect the leaves from wind burn.
  • Some will self-seed and add new plants to your garden.
  • Please Note: All parts of this plant are toxic to humans and pets. We normally eat only the fruits and vegetables we grow ourselves or that are sold in stores and markets. We know not to eat the flowers, bushes and trees that we grow in our gardens – that would make us sick. However, some plants have a special warning and Hellebores have that warning. Find a place to grow these plants where a curious child or pet won’t chew on them.

Caring for Hellebores

  • Water regularly when you water other flowers in the summer.
  • Add compost around plants every fall to feed them.
  • Possible pests: slugs, aphids. Possible diseases: fungus – Botrytis. Well drained soil and good spacing between plants should help prevent these problems.

When I first began gardening, the only kind of Hellebore available was one that had green flowers and supposedly smelled bad. I didn’t plant any, even though having an early flowering plant outside of my house was tempting. Now there are hybrids in many different colors from green to cream to pink, red and purple. No bad smell.

My Hellebores are planted in an area that I can see from my back door. I enjoy their green leaves and pale-colored flowers without opening the door to the cold.

 

Copyright 2018 Juli Seyfried

Green Gardening

Branch of Purple Leaf Sand Cherry

Purple leaves are what I see when I open the back door. There are two Purple Leaf Sand Cherry bushes across the patio. They screen the neighbor’s wood privacy fence – an extra layer in the spring, summer and fall. They provide a little shade during the day. The sunlight that comes through the leaves change their colors. Some appear purple. Some are red. Others bronze, rust, and green.

Since the name of the bush begins with purple leaf, I chose that for the name of this site. I could be lofty and say that the leaf color is inspiring; there’s probably a metaphor for life. Maybe there is. But I chose it because I like the colors.

Green gardening is what I do. When we first moved here, I was partially going green. I made the change to all green when a next door neighbor came to me with a request. I had applied some weed killer on the lawn that adjoins her property. She asked if I would not do that again. She said she had some serious health problems and using weed killer was harmful to her condition. In fact, she said it was harmful for my family and even our dog. We were breathing it in, it was on our skin and clothes. She was such a great person, caring for others every where she went, including me and my family. How could I turn her down? And that’s how I began green practices.

I find it’s not hard to do.  No huge change because I was already doing those things in many ways. Forgoing toxins on the lawn was not a big deal. I am still working on reducing the dandelion population in a non-harmful way. Not harvesting leaves for my salad yet. There are cats, raccoons, possums, skunks and the occasional dog off the leash walking through my yard. This does not make dandelions appealing. What I do have are a lot of birds, bees – especially native bees, butterflies and dragonflies. Lots of cool visitors to my yard. And all because of a request by a great neighbor!

 

Copyright 2017 Juli Seyfried