Monday, January 20, 2014

What's Happening Now

Many years ago a woman asked me to walk thru her garden with her and consult.  I knew she was tightly wrapped, but I didn't know how bad it was until I saw her hellebores.  Every single one had been stripped of all its leaves, and the flowers looked naked and embarrassed.  I hate people who torture their plants.  And I wonder about people who are that tightly wrapped.

Reminded me of a Beverly Nichols piece on consulting on a garden.  After a very rushed cup of tea the wife walked him around, and shot down every suggestion for improvement (and trust me, there was a lot of room for improvement) with  "Oh no, Mr Gardener (or what ever the hell his name was) would never stand for that.  He is quite attached to his (fill in the blank - fishpond, hideous rock pile, or what ever ugliness was under discussion at the moment).  

As Mr Nichols was leaving, the husband made an appearance and asked about their progress.  

"I gather you have some strong opinions about what is to be done in the garden..." Beverly Nichols said to the husband.

"Who, me?  No, I don't care if she bulldozes or floods the whole damn thing.  What ever makes her happy!"

Truth will out.

The hellebores are saving my garden.  The freeze made straw of the grasses and the geraniums, the forget-me-nots and the Icelandic poppies - thankfully the forget-me-nots and the poppies have recovered.  Mostly.  And the daffodils are starting (and the paperwhites of course) but they are a bit simple.  I have been cutting them for the table - I have resolved to have flowers from the garden on the breakfast table every day we are home.  Check with me in August, but so far so good.

But it is the hellebores that make me smile.

I don't understand them as cut flowers.  Some stems last forever, some wilt immediately.  In the same vase.  From the same plant. At the same stage of growth.  But in the garden, they have won my heart.

They bloom when the weather is bleak (except for this year, when we could use a little bleak weather and none is coming).  They have volunteered in the gravel, where hellebores are not supposed to grow.  Pink and white together.
The whites light up the shade.
The dark pinks charm, shyly nodding their heads.

Their cups are beautiful, pink and green with shaggy stamens.  
Each plant is a mass of flowers, the leaves nearly obscured.

Some hybridizer must be working on getting them to hold their heads up - just like the guy who bred the Stargazer lily, the first lily to face up not down.  But for now, they all nod.

Did you know that before the Stargazer all lilies hung their heads? There is a myth about why lilies do this, something about Christ and being ashamed.  But gardening is full of myths (remember the guy who puts salt on his iceplant?  It's in my book) - and few of them are founded in fact.  

There is a new hellebore this winter, a seedling.  It has appeared in two places, and I hope it will be happy and stay.  It's called picotee when the edges are a different color.  I call it cheerful and am happy it's in my garden.  All by itself.  

What's blooming in your garden?  

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