Monday, September 6, 2010

Hello hellebores

There's a lovely word to describe what transplanted plants do in their first season in their new home. It's called 'sulking'. I guess it's the botanical equivalent of a teenager locked in their bedroom listening to Death Metal for hours. Last year, after being transplanted, my hellebores had a big sulk and hardly flowered at all (well, by hellebore standards they hardly flowered).

This year the Big Sulk is over and they've started flowering, and should continue to do so for a month or more. I'm sorry I upset them, but it had to be done (the move, that is). "Yeah, whatever" I think was their muffled reply to my apology from beneath their blanket of gloom. All that is over now and youth is once more beautiful and inspiring. The hellebores are in bloom.

I suppose this one has a cultivar name, but I don't know it. It's just a Helleborus to me. I love that green tinge in the centre of the bloom, and the freckles on its face.

This bloom on another plant has a completely different complexion, pink-blushed and lightly veined with energy all over. That's the great thing about hellebores. Hardly any two flowers are the same, and they seem to enjoy tossing up completely new flower patterns for the sheer fun/beauty of it all.

There's a grand total of four hellebore plants here now, and they are settling into their new home behind the lemon tree very nicely. Poor things, no wonder they've been sulking. As my plans for the garden changed over the last half-dozen years, each time part of the solution was to 'move the hellebores' to some other spot. It's a testimony to their sheer toughness that none of them have carked it after all those transplants. But there has been a lot of sulking in those last half-dozen years, mind you. Don't blame them, really.

The plants themselves, if left alone and not transplanted every second year, should eventually grow to form a clump about 60cm (two feet) high and wide, or at least I think they will. The foliage has spiky looking edges but it's not as nasty as it looks. The flowers tend to droop down and face the ground, so that makes them an ideal planting on top of a bank, or at least somewhere elevated for the viewer to enjoy them. I don't have them up on a bank, but I still enjoy them simply by lifting the blooms to admire them.

As for growing them, they're so hardy here they don't need much help, but I do a couple of basic jobs every year. One is to cut out all the fading, scrappy looking foliage in midwinter, to make room for the nice new stuff that you can see trying to come up. And the other is to scatter around the chicken poo at the end of autumn (that's May here in Sydney). And that's it. They survive on our plentiful natural rainfall, but if we do go through a dry spell without rain for a couple of weeks, I give them a drink. That's about it.

And so the sulking is over, the hellebores are happy now in the home I hope they'll occupy for many years. If you're looking for an easy-care plant for shade or semi-shade (never full sun) they're worth a go if your climate suits them. I've seen them in English gardening books, and Sydney's climate is a long way from England's, so I guess hellebores are likely to do well in gardens in many different parts of the world.


lotusleaf said...

I have seen their pictures in gardening books, but have not seen them. 'Sulking' is a good word to describe what many plants do when their plans are changed by our plans.

Lanie said...

They are beautiful plants and flowers. I was only looking at buying some last week - in my recent bulk buy from Diggers Club. Are they attractive when not in flower too? Sulking is a great description - I think that is what my ruby grapefruit is doing too. I'll tell it about your hellebores to help it realise that other plants get moved too. :)

news games said...

Absolutely gorgeous. Love all the pictures you have shown. We have every way to see exactly how beautiful this flower is and you make me go buy it. Thank you

Sue O said...

I have a couple of hellebores and I love them. They flower when the garden looks particularly drab. My purple one has been in for about three years now and is finally looking settled.

Jamie said...

Lanie, when they're not flowering they are just little blobs of pleasant greenery with interesting shaped leaves, but they're not especially lovely or anything. Weeds don't seem to want to grow around hellebores, due to the density of the foliage, so if you have a dappled shade spot that's bare, hellebores could almost be thought of as a groundcover plant as they are evergreen, apart from the early-winter phase of tatty leaves.

The Bullfrog said...

I have hellebores growing profusely in my garden in Dubbo in Central West NSW. They grow in shade or part sun here and providing I keep water up to them every few days in summer, they survive in temperatures ranging from -5 to 42 degrees and flower prolifically.