Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hellebore Heaven

There have been lots of great posts about Hellebores lately--Phillip, Frances, Jeff, Gail, and Tina, who made it plant of the month--and I know I'm missing lots of others. Mine weren't blooming by February's Bloom Day--which is unusual--but by last week, they were starting to open. I'm pretty sure that the three shown below are all Helleborus orientalis, or Lenten Rose. The first two are passalongs from old gardens in Williamsburg--they were about 6" when my friend gave them to me when she thinned out a garden 13 years ago, and they moved with me in 2000. They're now about 2' high by 3'wide (the plant is slow growing--good side, they're pretty maintenance free).

This next photo is of a young plant, a transplanted seedling from the one shown above. The young leaves are smaller and a lighter green.

One of the lovely things about hellebores is that they're evergreen--so as my friend Jacaranda reminds me, you need to pay attention to the foliage when you buy them: even though the bloom is long-lasting (well, about 3 months), you live with the leaves all year. The orientalis leaves are long and dark green--you need to trim the old leaves occasionally and check under them for seedlings.

The leaves of Helleborus foetidus, or stinking hellebore, are more sharply serrated, and the plant is more upright (or my young ones are, anyway).

When I posted on Bloom Day, I thought the foetidus would bloom first--but they're still working. I'm wondering if some will face up (hellebores typically have drooping blooms, so many people try to plant them in slightly elevated sites. Mine are on the ground, so I hope for the occasional irregularity).

Anyway, when I admired Jeff's (The Transitional Gardener's) pictures, he told me about Pine Knot Farms, a nursery in Clarksville, Virginia that specializes in hellebores.

My friend Jacaranda and I started out early Saturday morning, hoping to meet Jeff at Pine Knots. But a little rain and a lot of Cosmo's-version-of-the-space-time-continuum intervened (I live 3 miles from an Interstate that takes me just about everywhere I want to go, and I haven't quite processed that you can't go 70+ once you're OFF the Interstate), and we arrived about ten minutes after Jeff left.

But the place was lovely--on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, the farm is located on a lake that almost renders the farm almost an island--you have to go into NC to get back to the farm in Virginia. It was raining steadily, but it didn't take away from the beauty of the place. Here's the farm pond (excuse the drops on the lens) looking out over the larger pond surrounding the farm.

Here's Jacaranda in the greenhouse, trying to decide between two pinks. Several of the regulars urged him to take both--eventually, he did--but look what he had to choose from.

And the colors are fabulous. As I understand it, the hybrids are experiments--this one dusted with that one's pollen--but when they get a plant they like, they propagate by cuttings--and we get to buy the rest. I was pretty happy with the experiments (though PLEASE someone correct my science if I've misrepresented things--I had a long talk with Jacaranda about breeding guppies on the way home and what I learned was basically that you shouldn't leave your five years' worth of work in a tank with an electric filtering system where a cat can knock it over. )

ANYWAY, here are some of the Pine Knot hybrids:

And I did my part for the economy! Here's my tub of hellebore hybrids, plus a new Pieris floribunda, a new cultivar for me:

And some close-ups:

This was my favorite buy--this is one of the ones they now cultivate, Helleborus x. smithii "Moonlight Sonata." That's a hardy cyclamen leaf next to it--Gail and Tina convinced me last fall to try one in the dry shade under a tree.

So clearly I grabbed a few things besides hellebores. Pieris japonica is one of my favorite shrubs; this Pieris floribunda is supposed to to have showier flowers. I think it looks great next to this hellebore--a fortunate accident, just happens to be where the pots fit into the tub--but I think I'll try to keep them together when I plant them.

I also picked up a Daphne odorata and an autumn fern. My last Daphne survived a move and the hurricane, and then died the next year. I don't think it liked where I had to transplant it, but now that the fallen trees are cleared, I'm going to plant this one where the other one had thrived. Keep your fingers crossed for me--I love them, but they're finicky here.

And how could I resist a Ranunculus! I planted a bunch of bulbs last fall, but this way I know I'll have at least one flower!

So that was my trip on Saturday; by Sunday night it was snowing, and by Monday afternoon we had 5 inches. I took this shot Monday morning, when the accumulation was a little lighter--I hope those big hellebore leaves protect the little flowers.

And here's my other Ranunculus, protected from the cold . . .

I hope to get my snow pictures up in the next day or so--Monday's snow day should have helped time wise, except that I spent the whole afternoon taking pictures! Here's to a quick thaw.


Roses and Lilacs said...

Wow, you hit the hellebore gold mine. I love them all but especially the dusty pink ones.

That last photo of your Ranunculus made me smile;) Enjoy our snow.

Phillip said...

I would have gotten into some much trouble there. Your photos are great. Isn't daphne a great shrub?

tina said...

Good morning! I am very late this morning with blogging:( Your trip is a perfect trip. I wish I had known of this nursery on my last trip there in 07, as I would surely have done my part for the economy too. I love your hybrids! My favorite is the second one pictured. I like that blush with the freckles. I don't have any freckled ones yet. I hope they come out differently. I am also looking for the foetidus. None here and I do like those leaves. Your buds are great! They will do great in your garden in the woods. I also think you'll very much like cyclamen. Mine that is outside looks just like yours. It is green and full of new growth. I recently read something about daphne's, I think it was in Dave's Newsletter. It caught my eye as I too have killed one and heard they are finicky. The article said daphne's need sweet soil. Not sure how sweet, but with our notoriously acid soils here, it might be worth doing a soil test and maybe adding a bit of lime. I do this for some plants already, like peonies and clematis. I think it helps, though I can't be sure except that they haven't died:) Ranunuculus will appreciate the flower in the garden too. It is lovely. ttyl

GardenJoy4Me said...

I have to say WOW ! too .. I would have loved to be there picking out more hellebore .. I have only the one .. Orientalis .. but it is a faithful wonderful plant even though it looks quite shocking right now .. I so want more and I hope our garden centers carry a good variety !
Well done on your part for the economy : )

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

Hey, not fair! My Hellebores aren't even in bud yet. Also not fair is that you live close enough to visit Pine Knot. I'm so jealous.

walk2write said...

You didn't get a ticket, did you, ignoring the space-time thingy? You are lucky to have friends who enjoy shopping for plants. I was wondering, though, what that variable does to affect your normal buying habits? Are you tempted to buy more or less than you would if you were by yourself? Those are some great pics, by the way.

Gail said...

Hi Cosmos! Wow and yippee. I am both in awe of the many hellebores there were to choose among and that you brought home so many lovely babies to make you smile. They were all gorgeous...I like the deep rich colors and the pinks! You know they all have something to commend them!

I found a new hellebore that you would love! It's named Golden Lotus and it has the prettiest face: a double yellow! I will have to post her face soon!

I brought a daphne home from HomeD...it perfumed the house then proceeded to drop it's bottom leaves! The weather has been too atrocious to even attempt to plant it outside, but it so needs moisture and my house feels like Arizona right now! Unlike Tina...we don't have acid soil.

Among all your babies...Mr Doggie Ranunculous may be the best! Btw, I am glad you are posting again! Thanks for the lovelink!


Phillip M said...

Sorry I couldn't make it - maybe next year!

Janet said...

Great Hellebores Cosmo! They are really nice! Glad you got a Daphne too. ;-)

Les said...

I love the freckled ones and the dark ones. I have yet to try a winter daphne, maybe because I see so many brought back to the garden center, warranties in hand. You may have read this, but there is an article in the current issue of Carolina Gardener on the Tylers. Here is a link to a synopsis of the article. Your tan Ranunculus looks very content, your green ones will not be content at staying put if they are happy. Nice thing is they disappear by June.

Sarah Laurence said...

Your hellebores were well worth the wait – how gorgeous! The farm is lovely; thanks for sharing it. Happy planting! Ranunculus looks very sweet.

Bren said...

YOU ARE QUIT THE PHOTOGRAPHER..... LOVE THESE! I am doing a search as soon as I am done reading your blog to see if these Hellebores will grow in my neck of the woods. I am in zone 5b.

I am going to follow you for a while on blogger. I am intrigued by your work in the garden and color choices.

Cameron (Defining Your Home) said...

Cosmo -- I think you and Helen Yoest (Gardening with Confidence) were at Knotts at the same time! Too bad about the rain. You picked up some lovelies!

PS Charm sleeps under a blanket, too. She snores! :-)

Rose said...

Cosmo, I've been wanting some hellebores since seeing them on blogs last spring. Your photos are pushing me over the edge:) Actually, I did order some a few weeks ago, but they haven't come in yet. I suppose they will be tiny things that won't bloom this year. I wish we had such a wonderful source for them near here as this farm.

Interesting that you mentioned your Daphnes. One of our local gardening experts mentioned the other days that Daphnes aren't worth the trouble--that is, they just don't seem to thrive here at all.

I'll be looking forward to seeing your snow photos--much preferable than seeing it in my yard:)

Bek said...

Beautiful! I bought one hellebore last year, but it didn't bloom yet this year. It got tiny buds that never developed more. Hopefully next year.
No quick thawing in our area:( We have the 3rd snow day in a row, even though the roads are clear by now.

Jan (Thanks For 2 Day) said...

Hi Cosmo, yep, we've got the same snow-on-the-ground--covering-the-plants Issues!! I just love the hellebores...I'm learning so much about them through blogging. I have one plant that has the flower heads finally coming out. Now of course they're under snow. As soon as it melts I'll get photos.

I wish that nursery was closer to me...I don't want to drive that far now. I can probably find some more around here (I hope!). I really need to add more. And a ranunculous. That would be a great addition...if I can find one.

It sounds like you have been 'happily' busy...that's a good thing;) More fun that being 'unhappily' busy;) (Not good grammar, I know)--You probably teach H.S. English!! ha ha

Skeeter said...

My eyes have been opened to the hellebores I have been seeing all over Blogland! They are stunning and I must find them and place them in my garden! New plant to me and I will surely keep an eye out for them around here. Smart pooch that Ranunculus. There are days when I would like to do the same thing!

Randy Emmitt said...

Wow, definitely you hit the jackpot. Meg's other house her sister and mother all have lots of helleore, yet here we have none. That will change after seeing your posting.

beckie said...

Heaven is exactly the right word to describe the nursery! I have coveted hellebores since first seeing them last spring on different blogs. Alas, I still don't have any. :{ I'm afrain the economy might start flourishing if I found as many hellebores in one place as you did. Thanks for all the lovley eye candy.

Cosmo said...

Marnie--I know you're an animal lover--your sidebar makes me smile every time I visit (and Ranunculus makes me laugh every day). The pinks are my favorites, too--I'm not huge on pink generally, but the complicated pink of my hellebores is wonderful.

Phillip, it is a place to get into trouble. But then I get into trouble at Lowe's. I LOVE daphnes--put something on your latest post.

Cosmo said...

Tina--It as a great trip except that it was my first "meet a fellow blogger trip" and I missed him, my fault! But he's forgiving and close and we'll get together soon. Yeah, as far as the hellebores go, I'm partial to the freckles, too. I love foxglove for the same reason (though I'm strangely drawn to the fact that they're poisonous . . .)
Re the foetidus, if I get any seedlings or if I can start a cutting, it's on its way to Tennessee! I will work some lime in when I plant the daphne--I know where the old one was happy, so I hope that same spot will please my new one. I'm gone for 10 days now--I'll miss blogging. Happy Spring planting!