Saturday, 17 January 2015

Hellebores no longer hang their heads ...



The late, great Geoff Hamilton once suggested that gardeners should visit a nursery every month and buy a plant in flower, to ensure that there would be colour in the garden all year round. This is a cracking idea on many levels, and one which I am going to follow for a whole year. Shame it is only once a month, but there is nothing in the rules to say that visits can't be more frequent! I intend to post about my purchase every month too. It is a great way to learn about what is in flower at any one time, and what choices are available.

I am not the first blogger to do this, by any stretch of the imagination, and indeed I first learned of Geoff Hamilton's suggestion on Jo's blog,  'The Good Life' . She bought a plant every month last year, and this year, and will review her choices this year.

 I am such an impulse buyer where plants are concerned, that this will be a great exercise in restraint. I intend to do my homework before I go, so that I will be buying something new, which I have never bought before. Buying plants in bloom throughout the summer months is so easy, but I make far fewer purchases for plants which flower in other seasons, winter in particular.

The garden contains little winter colour, apart from pots of cyclamens and pansies around the door, so it is ripe for a boost from a new plant. After reading other blogs, particularly Jessica, at   Rusty Duck I decided that I would buy my first hamamelis. Jessica mentioned a variety, 'Jermyn's Gold' , which looked fantastic, and smelled fantastic too, by all accounts. However, when I visited my local garden centre yesterday, the only hamamelis available was a rather unpleasant acid yellow... and it cost £30. I may have been swayed even with the exorbitant purchase price, but there was a woman complaining that she bought two of them, three years ago, and hasn't seen a single bloom yet. The advice she got was that patience was all, and that hamamelis take a long time to get established. I lost heart at that point  and went to look at the camellias. Too showy ... acid lovers, so would have to stay in a pot ... just didn't grab me...

My Holy Grail was the bench laden with hellebores ... cheap ... floriferous ... hardy ... gorgeous ...

Helleborus 'Christmas Carol'

Foliage 'Christmas Carol'

Now, I do have lots of hellebores in the garden already, but I have never bought one, more inherited some faded, washed out inbred plants, just about all of the same dirty pink hue. I love them dearly, and thought that all hellebores were like this, with fairly small flowers, shyly downcast. I wasn't prepared for this new generation of hellebores, which bear scant resemblance to the ones I know.

The first thing I noticed about this new super race of  hellebores is that they no longer hang their heads demurely, but look you squarely in the face ! Who would have guessed that modest, shy flower could be transformed into something as bold as brass!

The second thing I noticed was the size of the flowers, which are big, open and beautiful. The petals are very large compared with mine and the colours are clear and bright. 

The third thing I noticed was the price! I paid £11 for 3 lovely plants, one at £1.99, 1 at £2.99 and one at £5.99. As they are long lived perennials I feel that this represents excellent value, as they cost about the same as a bunch of supermarket flowers.

There were several varieties to choose from, and I chose three predominantly white flowered varieties - 'Christmas carol', 'Joel' and 'Rose Green'. They all have different qualities but would make a nice group, if planted together, as they would really complement each other.

'Christmas carol' was by far the largest plant and looked slightly rangy, in comparison. The flowers are a clear white, with yellow stamens. these contrast well with glossy , dark green foliage. The plant flowers, apparently, from October to February, which is amazing, if it does that in reality. It prefers shade or semi shade and grows to about 40cm. It is fully hardy.



My  next choice was a tiny little scrap called 'Rose Green', which looks much more compact than 'Christmas Carol' but apparently also grow to 40cm. It copes with full sun or semi shade, and flowers from January to March. The foliage is very different and is beautifully marbled with red and cream veining. The buds are much more spherical than the other two varieties and the habit of the plant is quite dense and compact. The flowers are tinged with soft rose pink and a fresh pale green. 





The third variety I selected was 'Joel', described as "a neat and compact plant with masses of pure white flowers opening from late November". It apparently copes well in a pot and prefers a humus-rich but well drained soil, in semi or full shade.

Hellebore 'Joel'

'Joel'

I am delighted with all three and pondering whether to put them together in a pot by the back door so that I can enjoy them every day. 

Roll on February ... 








38 comments:

  1. I'm needing to start from scratch.
    So used to being able to pick a garden posy - but in the new garden I have to work again at getting flowers going.
    But I could harvest a few white roses and a range of pelargoniums. (leaving the garden stripped of colour :~((

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    1. Hi Diana, how exciting, yet scary, to have a whole new garden to play with.
      Leaving the garden stripped is harsh. I can't bear to pick even a posy!

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  2. The blog you are thinking of is The Good Life, by Jo. I bought a plant in bloom every month last year following her lead and it was no hardship! It does make you think more about creating a garden that looks good in all seasons.
    Hamamelis do take a while to establish, my existing plants don't look a patch on the newest acquisition so I just hope they improve as they settle in. And can you ever have enough hellebores?
    Thanks for the link :)

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  3. Hi Jessica, thanks for that, I will add a link to Jo, but hers was 2013 and there is someone else doing it currently. It would make a good meme, as it would be fascinating to see what choices people made.
    These new hellebores are a total revelation to me !

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  4. Dear Jane, I also heard about the advice to visit a nursery every month and buy a plant in bloom to have some color in the garden at all times and also to increase variety. I am doing it (more or less) and it works really well. I think going for the hellebores was good choice. I love all the varieties that you have chosen, especially the pure white ones. Can't wait to see your plant purchases for next month. Wishing you a wonderful week! Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Hi Christina, it is such a pleasure to contemplate that monthly purchase and do research prior to that.
      I don't think you can go wrong with hellebores - I was just amazed by the new varieties which look you squarely in the eye.
      Hope you have a good week, too

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  5. I think I would have picked the hellebores too, Jane! They're lovely, and at those prices how could anyone resist? I look forward to seeing your selections over the months.

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    1. Hi Amy, I thought they were an absolute bargain ! I shall have to start saving for a hamamelis.

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  6. This would make a great meme. I don' t think a month goes by without a visit to a nursey for me; but it would be great to see what other people buy month by month.
    I love your hellebores and what amazingly good prices. I haven' t seen any so cheap round here.

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    1. Hi Chloris, it would make a great meme - if only I had the slightest clue how to set one up!! It would be fascinating to see what everyone bought each month!

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  7. Was it Jo's blog The Good Life where you read about this? You got a bargain. Just watch out for slugs when new young shoots and buds are produced next year as the devils have killed one of my Christmas roses and devastated the other.

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    1. Just noticed that Jessica has already mentioned Jo's blog

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    2. Hi Sue. I have read about Geoff Hamilton's idea on a couple of blogs over the last few weeks and I think one of them was Jo's blog, so I shall put a link in my post.

      Funnily enough our slugs have not yet developed a taste for hellebores, but I guess it is only a matter of time!

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  8. That's a great suggestion to follow Jane, it made perfect sense. Plus those Hellebores have nice foliage too!

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    1. Hi M & G - what a painful pleasure to have to choose a plant every month! I'll cope somehow ...

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  9. Your three hellebores are beautiful. Both the foliage and the blooms are striking.

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    1. Hi Alain, they are lovely plants, I was surprised at the changes in Hellebores from my inbred garden mutts ! these are thoroughbreds !!

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  10. Great idea to visit the nursery to see what blooms each month. I am finding I have great gaps in blooms in my garden and this would be a nice way to solve that issue. Alas, here in the cold north there aren't even nurseries open this time of year. I used to volunteer at a public garden where they cut some blooms each week and placed them at the garden entrance to show people what was blooming. Always thought that was a great idea and good inspiration for home gardens.

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    1. Hi Marguerite , what a fantastic idea to have cut flowers to highlight what was in bloom.
      I bet you get desperate withdrawal symptoms through the coldest months, if you can't even visit a nursery!

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  11. I think many of us would love an excuse to visit a nursery or garden centre more often!
    I think most plants that hang their heads down do it to protect the pollen from the torrential rain we usually have when they are flowering. Will the pollen be washed away if the heads are looking straight at us, will there be any pollen left for the bees which do come out in mild spells in Jan/Feb?

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    1. Hi Pauline, that is interesting, I didn't realise that was the reason for the downturned head, but it makes perfect sense now you come to mention it . I shall watch to see if the pollen is still there for the bees . I also hope it stays as I hope to some hand-pollination with them later in the season.

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  12. A spot of retail therapy is good for the soul Jane especially if it involves buying plants. Your newcomers look most attractive and all so reasonably priced. Look forward to seeing what you will be tempted by in February :)

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  13. Good luck with your purchase, Jane. I think you need to remove the seeds of the other hellebores, otherwise it will end up being the same as the others. But even if that happens, it'll take a while, so enjoy ...

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  14. Hooray for new Hellebores! You got some lovely ones, Jane!

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  15. This is something that I can't grow here.

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  16. The practice of buying plants as Geoff Hamilton recommends is one I follow and particularly when I first started out gardening. Although I can't remember where I read it back then but for a newbie, it's very helpful.
    Nice new plants Jane and I will look forward to see what you purchase throughout the year.

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  17. I'm pleased to see that you're doing the same as I did in 2013 and buying a plant in flower each month. Hellebore was my choice for December, I wonder if any of your other choices will be the same as mine. It's quite tricky at this time of year, and then at the back end of the year again. Not all my plants survived, I shall be doing an update post on each one month by month this year.

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    1. Hi Jo, I have updated this post and added a link through to your blog. I shall look forward to your update posts to see how all those choices have fared. It is fantastic chance to try something new, as I have made a little vow that I will but something I have never bought before.

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  18. Lovely variety of Hellebores you bought Jane. Wonderful foliage and two of them are flowering already from Oct./Nov......that's what I also want. I go for the Christmas Carol, when I can find it here.

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    1. Hi Janneke, I was surprised how early they flower - my existing ones always flower much later. Hope you find Christmas Carol!

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  19. Hi Jane, your choice of hellebores is excellent, really lovely. The reason why they don’t look like the ones you already have in your garden is probably that those you have might be Helleborus hybridus and these are different. ‘Christmas Carol’ and ‘Joel’ are Helleborus niger, I am not sure about ‘Rose Green’ but I guess it is a Helleborus niger too. They flower earlier than Helleborus hybridus and have, as you have spotted, more upright flowers. Lovely collection!

    Over the 13 years I have been at my current house I have bought plants to suit all parts of my garden and I have made sure I always have flowers. I buy everything online and I often buy plants when they have finished flowering as they are cheaper then, they will flower next year anyway. I have flowers every week of the year in my tiny garden. I am afraid I am a rather impulse buyer too, I see something nice, buy it and worry about where to but if afterwards :-)

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  20. Hi Helene, this is why my mission of buying a new plant in flower every month is so useful - I am learning already! I must admit I have had little interest in Hellebores before, and have just lumped them all together ! All part of this great learning curve which is gardening!
    I usually buy on impulse and often buy because of a bargain price. I will often nurture plants back from the brink and love doing it. I don't buy many plants online apart from plug plants. I have the same problem as you with my many impulse buys - where to plant them !!

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  21. Hi Jane, love the Hellebores but although I can grow more or less any type of them I do struggle to get H.niger and its hybrids and varieties to establish in the open ground although my garden conditions should suit them. I will try them again but in containers as they are something special at this time of the year.

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    1. Hi Rick, that is interesting, I think I may put all three in containers and see how they fare.

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  22. Our one full service nursery closes down for the winter. It hurts to drive by and see the gate shut. Hellebores are very popular around here. Not a small amount of bragging goes on at garden club as to who has what blooming and when.

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    1. Hi Susan, that closed gate must be so frustrating! Roll on spring!
      I am hoping to be able to join in with the bragging now I have some interesting, early varieties!!

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  23. Buy a plant a month? The only hardship would be limiting it to one!! Your hellebores were fabulous value, so often they are really expensive, understandably given how tricky they are to breed. Great choice, I look forward to following your purchases through the year.

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  24. Hi Janet, it won't be just one plant a month, as I could never stick to that! I will just buy one which is in flower and I have never bought before and then blog about it. i will ignore the other new acquisitions and pretend that they are nothing at all to do with me !

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Thanks for visiting and reading.
I really welcome comments and have learned much from them, over the years of leaning over the virtual garden gate ...