Fabulous Friday: Something Borrowed, Something New

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Until I’d struggled with this ‘new’ garden for a couple of years, watching my familiar favorite plants disappear from the garden to feed assorted voles, rabbits, squirrels and deer, I’d never given Hellebores more than a passing thought.  They simply weren’t on my radar in those days when I was busy growing roses and Hydrangeas, berries, beans, tomatoes and every Begonia I could find.

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And then a friend offered to dig a few Hellebores from her garden to share with me.  We had been consoling each other, probably over cups of coffee, as we both told our stories of plants loved and lost in this forested community.  Our houses are nearby, and each of us has a ravine and a pond beyond our back yards, favorite haunts of large herds of deer.

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She’s been here a year or so longer than we; long enough to learn a trick or two.  Long enough to learn to treasure her Hellebores.

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Our first patch of Hellebores, given to us by a friend,  as they were in April of 2012. These perennials look good in every season, thrive in dry shade, and bloom for several months in late winter and early spring.

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Her broad front yard is carpeted with beautiful Hellebores.  Through the warmer months, Hellebores cover the ground, especially in shady spots, with a beautiful, textured deep emerald green.  And then sometime between November and January they begin to bloom.  And they keep producing flowers until things heat up again in April or May.

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Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’.

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Hellebore flowers come in shades of white, cream, light green, pinks, purples, and reds.  Heavily hybridized, there is a huge variety of size and form available through nurseries and catalogs.

Which is fun for collectors, but almost doesn’t matter anymore once you have a plant or three.  Because Hellebores easily set seed, and those seeds easily germinate.  And a few Hellebores easily becomes an ever widening patch of them, all a bit different since they have hybridized with one another.

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I’m reminded of generosity and friendship every spring as we admire our Hellebores.  Those few early plants did so well for us, some even in full sun, that I dig and re-plant seedlings in more areas of the yard each spring.  Hellebores are just the trick to solve several of the challenges we face.

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Hellebores touched with frost

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Because they are highly poisonous, the local wild things leave Hellebores strictly alone.  This makes them valuable for planting around newly planted trees, shrubs, ferns and perennials that need a bit of protection from hungry voles.  The voles avoid the Hellebore roots and so avoid the tasties you need to protect, as well.

Simply plant a circle of seedlings, spaced every 8″-10″, around the new plant.  Those roots very soon grow into a solid mass of protection, and the Hellebores will thrive in dry shade as the shrubs grow.

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Hellebores and Narcissus protect the roots of this Camellia sasanqua, blooming for several months after the Camellia flowers have faded.

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Deer don’t much like to walk through Hellebores, and certainly never nibble them.  Plant them in a mass along property lines, or disrupt deer runs through the garden with a living barrier of Hellebores.

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Hellebore seedlings bloom for the first time on this slope, where I planted them last spring.  This area gets a lot of erosion and several other plants have failed here.  The daffodils and Hellebores may prove the solution to hold the bank.

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Hellebores also serve as a beautiful ground cover on slopes and other areas where you don’t want grass.  They hold the soil against erosion and suppress weeds.  They can take drought and need very little care, other than removing old and damaged leaves in late winter.

I like to mix Hellebores with ferns and spring bulbs, like daffodils or early summer bloomers like Iris.  They make great companions.

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Seedlings blooming in their first year.

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And finally, I still want a few large pots of Hellebores each winter.  I pick out new cultivars at the nursery, looking for interesting leaves as well as striking flowers.  Maybe one day I’ll just dig a few seedlings for the pots.  But I find the new cultivars interesting enough to seek out special ones with variegated foliage or double flowers.

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I was very inspired by a planting featured in a recent issue of Gardens Illustrated.  A very large round stone planter was filled with the earlier blooming Helleborus niger, the Christmas rose, interplanted with Galanthus and Cyclamen hederifolium and C. coum. The whole confection was white flowers against beautiful green and silver foliage.   It was elegantly simple and absolutely aglow on the dull day it was photographed.

Hellebores make wonderful companion plants for spring bulbs in winter pots, and the whole thing can be transplanted into the garden in April, when you want to re-plant the pot for summer.  You know the arrangement will come back even bigger and better next winter.

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Which brings me to the main reason I’m celebrating our Hellebores on this Fabulous Friday:  they give abundant winter flowers.  Whether cut for a vase, floated in a bowl, or simply admired while walking through the garden; Hellebores defy winter with flowers of vibrant color and delicate beauty.

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We have enough seedling Hellebores appearing each spring that I’m always happy to share with other gardeners.  Especially gardeners making the hard adjustment to gardening in our challenging area, who are just looking for something, anything, they can grow without having to spray it with deer repellents every time it rains.

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Something borrowed, something new… a gardener’s happiness always grows when friends share their botanical treasures, and when success finally blooms from challenge.

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Woodland Gnome 2019
Fabulous Friday:
Happiness is Contagious; Let’s Infect One Another!
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Sunday Dinner: Persistence

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“One bulb at a time.
There was no other way to do it.
No shortcuts-
-simply loving the slow process of planting.
Loving the work as it unfolded.
Loving an achievement that grew slowly
and bloomed for only three weeks each year.”
.
Jaroldeen Asplund Edwards

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“Discover a purpose that gives you passion.
Develop a plan that makes you persistent.
Design a preparation that motivates you
to optimize your potentials.
Do it because you love it!”
.
Israelmore Ayivor

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“To persist with a goal,
you must treasure the dream
more than the costs of sacrifice
to attain it.”
.
Richelle E. Goodrich

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Waiting
is a form of passive persistence.”
.
Ogwo David Emenike

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2019

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“A river cuts through rock,
not because of its power,
but because of its persistence.”
.
James N. Watkins

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“You plan by dreaming,
you learn by doing
and you succeed by persisting.”
.
Debasish Mridha MD

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Sunday Dinner: Energized!

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“If you want to find the secrets of the universe,
think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.”
.
Nikola Tesla

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“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop away from you
like the leaves of Autumn.”
.
John Muir

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“Earth, water, fire, and wind.
Where there is energy there is life.”
.
Suzy Kassem

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“I define connection as the energy that exists between people
when they feel seen, heard, and valued;
when they can give and receive without judgment;
and when they derive sustenance and strength
from the relationship.”
.
Brené Brown

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“The energy of the mind is the essence of life.”
.
Aristotle

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“…The human perception of this energy
first begins with a heightened sensitivity to beauty.”
.
James Redfield

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“Rage — whether in reaction to social injustice,
or to our leaders’ insanity,
or to those who threaten or harm us —
is a powerful energy that, with diligent practice,
can be transformed into fierce compassion.”
.
Bonnie Myotai Treace

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
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“Never forget that you are not in the world; the world is in you.
When anything happens to you, take the experience inward.
Creation is set up to bring you constant hints and clues
about your role as co-creator.
Your soul is metabolizing experience
as surely as your body is metabolizing food”
.
Deepak Chopra

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Fabulous Friday

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As the garden fills up with flowers, I am ready to begin celebrating ‘Fabulous Friday’ once again.   It’s been a month since we last celebrated Friday in the garden, and a cold, wet month it’s been!

Today dawned bright and sunny, yet still windy and deceptively cool.

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We headed out after lunch to see what we could see.  I carried my camera and my partner carried heavy pruners.  I was in search of beauty, but he intended to tackle some stubborn bamboo climbing up from the ravine into the garden.  Even in the relative shelter of the back garden, the cutting wind found us and made us wish we had grabbed more layers on the way out.

We have layered clumps of daffodils all the way down the slope, from the edge of the drive as far as we know the sun can reach them.  We plant more bulbs each fall.  Each spring, once the special ones have finished in their pots, I transplant them ‘in the green’ to still empty spots in the garden.

Seeing them shining in the bright sunshine today makes us very glad for the small effort to plant them.

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I convinced my partner that we should fill the garden with daffies by reminding him that every part of the Narcissus plant is poisonous, even its roots.  We began to plant them in areas once relentlessly dug up by voles.  Over the years that strategy has proven effective, and where there are daffies there are no vole tunnels.  Now we plant them generously around new shrubs and trees, working to create a ‘curtain’ of poisonous roots to protect our newly planted treasures.

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It’s elegant, in a somewhat warped and twisted way, to realize that while Narcissus and Hellebores look lovely together, they are equally effective in stopping voles ‘dead’ in their tunnels. This association continues as the tall Hellebores help to hide the daffodil foliage as  it gradually dies back, feeding the bulb for several weeks after the flowers finish.

We have an endless supply of seedling Hellebores to transplant each spring now, and I dutifully dig them up and move them to where we need them.  Hellebores are tough plants.  They will hold a bank.  They will ring a shrub.  They will fill a bed or a pot or crop up spontaneously where you most need one to grow!  Sold as shade plants, some of ours continue to thrive in nearly full sun through our long hot summers.

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I’m seduced to buy a new cultivar or two each winter when the garden centers offer little else.  Yes, oysters to Kilmarnock, I know.  But do you blame me?

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We admire their bright and ever changing faces during these last weeks of winter when spring can’t make up its mind whether or not to linger.  They fill the garden with flowers when little else beside the daffies and the Vinca dare to bloom.

I’ve been enrolled in a gardening class since early January, and yesterday we sat in rapt attention as a local landscape designer shared slide after slide of gorgeous gardens she has designed.   She shared with us her favorite annuals and perennials that grow well around Williamsburg.

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The shot that stole my heart was a bowl filled with Hellebore blossoms, snipped from a garden she designed.

When I noticed how many different Hellebores have come into bloom in our garden this week, I couldn’t resist clipping a collection of our flowers, too, to try to replicate that picture for you.

Hellebores bloom in waves, over four or five months here in coastal Virginia.  The earliest may open in late December.  We often still have a few Hellebores in bloom in mid-May.

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More are still on their way, including a particularly sassy dark purple cultivar that I just planted last week.  When it finally blooms, it may rate a Fabulous Friday post all on its own.

This fabulous sunny Friday offered us a respite to get outside and check on spring’s progress, as we wait for the rains to return here early next week.

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Pear blossoms have just begun to open in our garden.

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Forecasters shout the ‘S’ word, threatening us with another round of storms.  I don’t plan to give that much thought or worry, though.

Spring is well underway here with the annual progression of flowers.  And our gorgeous Hellebores highlight the beds, promising that the season is now mostly here  to stay.

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Woodland Gnome 2018
Fabulous Friday:  Happiness is contagious.  Let’s infect one another!

 

 

Sunday Dinner: Spring’s Surprise

Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’

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“Our brightest blazes of gladness
are commonly kindled by unexpected sparks.”
.
Samuel Johnson

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“Magic is the stunning art
of surprising your audience,
so that nothing else surprises them.”
.
Amit Kalantri

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“The best part of the journey
is the surprise and wonder along the way.”
.
Ken Poirot

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Trees are already in bloom at the Heath’s display garden in Gloucester, VA.

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“The beauty of the unexpected
lies within the surprise of the momentum,
not only at its tipping point,
but also within all the moments waiting.”
.
Akilnathan Logeswaran

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“Magic is a very beautiful mystery.
Even the ages old magic effects
still surprises the most modern men.”
.
Amit Kalantri
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018
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Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ alongside N. ‘Tete-a-Tete’

WPC: Faces in the Crowd

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The garden explodes with flowers this week.   Buds open so quickly that we watch their progress over the course of a few hours.  Warmth will do that, you know.

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It is nearly impossible to see and appreciate them all at once.  Crowds of daffodils appeared in drifts beneath the shrub border.  Their buds pop open in an anonymous sea of gold and white.

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The star Magnolia has cloaked itself in white couture, and Edgeworthia flowers swell, wafting a startlingly sweet perfume onto the warm, humid breezes.

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Hellebores uncurl themselves languidly, ever elegant as buds and leaves unfold.  Whole clumps expand in a jumble of uncounted blossoms.  Faces shyly averted,  they radiate feminine strength in their insistence to blossom and fill such a grey and brown February garden with softest shades of cream and pink.

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Forsythia shrubs burst into bright yellow flames as thousands of tiny flowers radiate their promise that the relentless tsunami of spring is upon us.

The sky was ominous with low churning clouds, these last few days; and frequent showers, or the threat of showers, discouraging us from lingering too long in the garden.

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We were still drawn outside to witness this beauty unfolding.  Planting, pruning, spreading mulch; clearing away the remains of last season’s browned and shriveled growth; we took our turn as stage hands in the this spectacle of spring.

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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For the Daily Post’s

Weekly Photo Challenge:  A Face in the Crowd

 

Sunday Dinner: Wonders

Magnolia stellata

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“A man should hear a little music,
read a little poetry,
and see a fine picture every day of his life,
in order that worldly cares
may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful
which God has implanted in the human soul.”
.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
.
Socrates

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“It is a happiness to wonder; –
– it is a happiness to dream.”
.
Edgar Allan Poe

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“When we try to pick out anything by itself,
we find it hitched to everything else
in the universe.
.
John Muir

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“The invariable mark of wisdom
is to see the miraculous in the common.”
.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“When you don’t cover up the world
with words and labels,
a sense of the miraculous returns to your life
that was lost a long time ago
when humanity, instead of using thought,
became possessed by thought.”
.
Eckhart Tolle

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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“Incidentally, the world is magical. 
Magic is simply
what’s off our human scale…
at the moment.”
.
Vera Nazarian

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Hellebores: Winter’s Flowers

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Even before the first snowdrop emerges, we enjoy abundant winter flowers in our garden.  Perennial Hellebores fill our pots, beds and borders with their sturdy evergreen leaves year round.

Buds emerge in late December or early January, and their flowers begin to open during that long stretch of cold when little else can bloom.  Often called “Christmas rose” or “Lenten rose,”  these tough, beautiful flowers continue blooming through late spring.

I’ve just re-edited my 2014 post, Hidden Jewels: Hellebores, with additional information and updated photos.  I hope you will enjoy it!

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H. argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’ February 9, 2017

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Woodland Gnome  2018
*     *     *
Hidden Jewels: Hellebores
The Beauty of Hellebores
Helleborus argutifolius ‘Snow Fever’
Why I Love Those Plants of Ill Repute
Plan Now For Winter Flowers

Sunday Dinner: Promise

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“Know who you are,
what your potential is
and press towards it with all
that you have within you”
.
Sunday Adelaja

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“There is that gnawing feeling
that we are far more than what we believe ourselves to be.
Maybe it’s time to believe the gnawing.”
.
Craig D. Lounsbrough

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“A potential is a hidden greatness.
It is the success to be realized.
It is an accomplishment yet to be uncovered.”
.
Israelmore Ayivor

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“The unlike is joined together,
and from differences
results the most beautiful harmony.”

.
Heraclitus

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“Dreams become regrets when left in the mind,
never planted in the soil of action.”
.
Auliq-Ice

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“To be ordinary is a choice,
for everyone has it in them
to become extraordinary.”
.
Lauren Lola

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“This is the miracle of all miracles—
when life sacrifices itself to become something greater.
When it awakens to its potential
and rises in power.
That is true magic.”
.
Seth Adam Smith
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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2018

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“Never become impatient with the process,
bored with the pace, frustrated at the meager results,
just keep trying.”
.
Auliq-Ice

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“All of those things – rock and men and river – resisted change,
resisted the coming as they did the going.
(Mt.) Hood warmed and rose slowly,
breaking open the plain, and cooled slowly
over the plain it buried.
The nature of things is resistance to change,
while the nature of process is resistance to stasis,
yet things and process are one,
and the line from inorganic to organic and back
is uninterrupted and unbroken.”
.
William Least Heat-Moon

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“Everything is an experiment.”
.
Tibor Kalman

 

Fabulous Friday: The Urgency of Spring

Narcissus ‘Cragford’

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It’s warm enough again to spend a little time in the garden again.  It didn’t freeze last night, for the first night in several, and I spent a happy hour planting a few more perennials, cleaning up around the Siberian Iris, and generally tidying up in the front garden yesterday afternoon.

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Narcissus ‘Thalia’

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We feel very content as we watch the garden spring back to life.  Fiddleheads and perennials push through the soil, announcing their presence once again.  Like out of state relatives you rarely see, unless they want to vacation in your area; these beautiful bits of plant life fill our hearts with happiness at their arrival.

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A seedling Columbine, grows in the driveway.

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Of course, the spring clean up presses now with even more urgency as we try to pluck the early weeds and drying leaves out of the way.   Branches, fallen in the wind; almost forgotten perennial stems left in autumn; and a few winter casualties must all be cleared away.

And this is the time to do it, while it is comfortably cool and relatively bug free!

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Helleborus

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There is another job needing attention now which might surprise you:  deadheading.  While your garden may be still covered with snow, ours has been re-energized long enough now that the earliest daffies have faded.  And so my last several tours around the garden have included both deadheading faded blossoms, and plucking those still vibrant flowers knocked over by the wind.

There is something immensely sad about these elegant flowers lying face down on the ground, and so I rescue them to a vase.  My vase, a friend’s vase; either is good.

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Now, there is a running debate over whether to deadhead daffodils.  And so I turned to the experts, Brent and Becky Heath, of Gloucester daffodil fame, for an informed opinion.  I’ve been reading their book, Daffodils for North American Gardens, this week.

As with so many gardening questions, the answer is complicated.  First, they advise that most hybrid daffodils can’t set seed.  Therefore, there is no reason to leave the spent blossoms and they advise removing them for neatness sake.  Emerging daffies just look more beautiful if those spent ones near them aren’t crumpled and brown.

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Some of the older varieties, and certainly the species daffodils which can set seed, will pour energy into those seeds at the expense of storing energy in their bulb for next year’s blossoms.  So one must consider whether it is more important to produce seeds at the expense of bloom size or quantity next spring, or whether one can skip the chance of the daffies reseeding in the interest of neatness and next year’s crop.

With that guidance in mind, I’ve been more attentive to deadheading the spent daffies this spring than ever before.  It’s easy enough to snip them off with scissors, but I’m usually equipped with little more than a thumbnail when I notice them….

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A further bit of advice from the Heaths is to snip the fading flower, but leave the stems.  The stems will stay green, like the leaves, for many weeks to come;  making food each day and building up the bulbs for the coming season.

After the blossoms die back, each bulb calves new bulbs from its basal plate.  So the single bulb you planted last fall may have morphed into a small cluster of bulbs by early summer.

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That is why patches of daffodils grow and spread over the years.  After four or five years, you might decide to dig your clump, then divide and replant the bulbs to spread them around a bit.

Do this after the flowers fade, and as the leaves are browning in early summer.

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Even the very small bulbs, known as ‘chips,’ will grow leaves next year.  It may take a year or two of growth before they flower, but a single bulb may grow into thousands when given good care and enough time.

That is pretty fabulous, when you think about it!

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I’ve  set an intention to find some wonderful, beautiful, and happiness inducing thing to write about each Friday. 

Now that the Weekly Photo Challenge has moved to Wednesdays, I am starting  “Fabulous Friday” on Forest Garden. 

If you’re moved to find something Fabulous to share on Fridays as well, please tag your post “Fabulous Friday” and link your post back to mine. 

Happiness is contagious!  Let’s infect one another!

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Photos by Woodland Gnome 2017

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Narcissus, ‘Katie Heath’

 

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