Welcome to ‘In A Vase On Monday’, when I am linking up with Cathy at Rambling In The Garden to join in with her challenge to find something from the garden to put in a vase every week.
Things are certainly getting easier now – the garden is filling up with flowering daffodils, crocus and other small bulbs. I even have the first delicate blossom on a dark leaved cherry tree. Despite the temptations offered by the bulbs, I have not made much use of my helleborus orientalis so far this year and they are looking so glorious in the garden that I thought they deserved a turn in the limelight.
Hellebores are one of my favourite flowers regardless of the season, but they are also the highlight of the early spring garden. There is nothing else at this time of year that can fill your garden with such a variety of forms and colours. Hellebores are available as both single and double flowers in shades from the palest pastel pink through to almost black.
I like to grow my hellebores in full sun. Although they are usually thought of as candidates for a shady border (and they will flower in such a position), hellebores actually thrive in full sun. My plants growing in full sun in a rich soil have 20 or 30 stems, each bearing 2 or 3 flowers, whilst those in the woodland that were planted at the same time have only 5 or 6 stems. I am considering moving the ones in the woodland into a sunnier position and certainly any I buy in the future will be planted into a lovely sunny spot.
The flowers start to appear in early January, but it takes until late February for the stems to reach their full height. Once open the flowers last for many weeks – slowly developing seed pods, so the show extends throughout late winter and well into spring.
Every January I remove all the old foliage from every plant. Last years leaves will be large and coarse and often covered with black spots which are a sign of a common hellebore fungal disease. These leaves should all be cut off at the ground leaving just the newly emerging flower heads. New foliage will appear soon enough. The old foliage must be burned or binned – putting it in the compost risks spreading the fungal disease around the garden.
As hellebores grow best in a rich soil I feed them with fish, blood & bone twice a year – once as I cut the leaves back in January and again in late April to give them a boast before the summer. I also mulch around the plants with leaf mold as I clear the borders in March.
Hellebores are tricky to use as a cut flower – the stems of these ones have been seared in boiling water for 20 seconds before being arranged in the glass jar, but even then I would only expect them to last two or three days. The most long lasting way to use the flowers is to float them in a shallow bowl of water.
Not everything has to be long lasting though and for a few days at least I am happy to be enjoying my hellebores on their elegantly drooping stems.
The last week has been a good one for gardening – although the temperatures are still a little low the ground is quickly drying out and I have been able to work through quite a few borders. I have just started sowing the seeds of half hardy annuals in the greenhouse and I am planting out the hardy annuals that were sown last autumn. This morning I went to visit the venue for the wedding that I am doing the flowers for in April – I have to admit to feeling a few nerves at the moment – will my bulbs be up in time, or will they have gone over? Growing flowers for an event is a tricky business and I can feel a few sleepless nights coming!
I hope you have enjoyed this weeks vase of hellebores and that you will pop over to Cathy’s blog to see what she and the increasing band of others have made this week. I must say a big thank you to Cathy for organising this lovely weekly meme and do think about joining in with us – it really is a case of the more the merrier and anything goes.