Here’s Why I Love Hellebores

Cars buried in the snow

For all of February, this is what we battled in Connecticut. Now you see why I refer to it as the “frozen north. ” That funny red stick you see in the snow by the tree? That’s a 6 foot snow broom–I use it to clear the cars. You can see where I started on the far right.

But this is a gardening blog with a title about hellebores. I just wanted to give you some perspective for the next photo. Because, as you can imagine, it has taken quite some time for all this snow to melt, particularly when more kept falling.

When all the snow did melt, however, this is what’s underneath.

Lenten rose

I was shocked to see such fully developed buds coming out from under the snow. But of course, the temperature under there would have been stable and relatively warm–near freezing.

Many people find hellebores ordinary or common. Since these–along with the snowdrops–are the first things blooming for me, I am always delighted to see them!

Spring in a Glass

Forced bulbs

You have seen some of my bulbs earlier this season when I posted very short white hyacinth and talked about how they had gotten an inadequate period of cold so they hadn’t elongated properly.

This white bulb looks slightly better. It’s not as tall as the purple one but it’s not stuck down in the bulb like my first ones were in early January. It’s actually taller than it looks in the photo.

And full disclosure–I bought the small narcissus bulb–the yellow ‘Gaza’ with the tiny multiple blooms. It looks great with the hyacinths and just makes me smile every time I see it.

Forcing bulbs, particularly the fragrant hyacinths, is one of the ways that I get through the very long winters in my cold part of the country. You have to do what makes you happy, particularly as we struggle to emerge from the pandemic.

For more information on hyacinths, you can always see this fact sheet from the National Garden Bureau. They have designated 2021 as the Year of the Hyacinth (among other things). 

A Garden Conference With Something for Almost Everyone

The Trustees of Reservations, a non-profit group in Massachusetts that is both a preservation and conservation group, is holding its 45th annual Gardeners’ Gathering (virtually, of course) from March 20-22, 2021. The event is free so all my readers may find it accessible and of interest. To register, please use this link: http://www.thetrustees.org/gathering

Michael W. Twitty

This year, its featured speaker will be Michael W. Twitty, shown above. Mr. Twitty is a noted chef and author of The Cooking Gene. He will speak about “culinary justice, sharing knowledge around crops, and practicing integrated learning across intergenerational linguistic and ethnic spaces…. [Mr.] Twitty will deliver his special presentation on Saturday at 11 am. A two-time James Beard award winning author, chef from Washington, D.C., and also a culinary historian, he draws on his African-American and Jewish cultural backgrounds to explore the ways that recipes, heirloom crops, and food shape and evolve with our identities and our history. He will speak about gardens as healing spaces and places to work through the issues of living in a multicultural democracy.”

This presentation sounds amazing and could not be more culturally relevant right now.

Because the Trustees Community Gardens in Boston and the City of Boston are the co-hosts of the event, the Boston Mayor will be the Keynote Speaker and will present several Community Garden awards for “Most Valuable Gardener,” “Rookie Garden of the Year” and “Hall of Fame Garden.”

The Trustees have designed the program to be interesting to novice and seasoned gardeners alike. For newer gardeners, there are workshops on things like seed saving, seed starting and composting.

For the more advanced gardener, there are programs on building raised beds, no-till gardening (one of my personal favorites!) and growing medicinal herbs. There’s lots more on offer as well–check out this amazing 3-day program!

Expect the Unexpected

Shattered tree and part of the clean-up

You might have heard that the northeast had some strong winds recently. This really isn’t unusual for us. We regularly get strong winds above 50 mph in the spring and the fall as fronts come through.

And unfortunately, because we are a heavily treed state, with large, mature evergreens, someone, somewhere will lose a tree–or two. You can see my neighbor’s woodpile in the photo behind what is soon to be more timber. He stacks his logs in between our upright pine trees.

As the above photo shows, one of our pines took a hit in these most recent winds. The top half came off, flew across the yard and landed on the roof with a thud so loud it woke me from a sound sleep (not an easy thing to do!) and shook the whole house.

Siding ripped off down to the insulation

Once it bounced off the roof, it slid down the side of the house, taking off the siding.

The end where it was attached to the tree

This is the “small” end of the tree. The larger part is in the top photo. I missed the “good part” yesterday where the branches were up to the second story windows.

And one of the sad things is that it shattered a lovely granite bench into several pieces, beyond repair.

But here I am, telling you all about it–so there’s nothing truly sad about this at all really. Because this could have been so much worse!

Right (House) Plant, Right Place

Croton

Depending on what you might have read, this is either an easy care house plant or a difficult house plant. But if you have been reading my blog for awhile, you know that I can manage to kill some of the easier care house plants and I have had great success with some plants that are supposedly difficult.

So I think that we are doing everyone a disservice by describing house plants as “easy” or “difficult.” We don’t describe garden plants in this manner. Can you imagine if we suddenly started describing maple trees as “easy” and “oak” trees as “difficult? How absurd would that be?

How about if azaleas were easy (which they’re not) but roses were difficult (which they are also not)? Again, how silly would that sound?

So why do we persistently lump whole genuses of house plants as easy (I am thinking of you, snake plants! Nothing is easy if you stick it in a dark corner and water it too much!)

“Berries” on my croton

This actually is the level of benign neglect your house plants need. Obviously this plant was so happy that it flowered. I somehow missed the flowering completely but I did manage to notice the little berries that have formed. So clearly this plant is in the right place even in a snowy Connecticut winter.

You want to pay enough attention so that insects don’t get a foothold. You want to make sure that you are watering properly for a plant’s needs. Beyond that, try not to worry about artificial ideas, light meters or other extraneous things. The plant will let you know if it’s happy. This is proof.

Memorial Plants?

On Monday I posted about the dish garden that was given to me to commemorate–or commiserate over–a loss.

A few weeks ago I posted about my ‘Snow Fountain’ weeping cherry which we planted to honor my Dad’s passing.

So all this posting about “memorial” plants has got me thinking about plants as a way of remembering people. It’s not unusual, of course, to plant a tree to remember someone. But what really got me thinking was a comment I made in response to a comment on my “Dish Garden” post.

If you recall, the second part of that post was about a “deconstructed” dish garden that a neighbor had given me. What I really didn’t say in that post was that she received that garden when her husband passed away–so I was sort of the repository of plants given in his memory–and that was fine because I knew him well and liked him very much.

In my comment I said that eventually my neighbor would move away or pass away as well and all I would have as a memory would be those plants, making them true “memorial” plants.

I wonder how other people feel about this. Do you find it creepy or comforting? I know that out in the garden I have lots of plants from folks that are “no longer with me” in one sense or another. Many have just moved away. Others I have lost touch with, for whatever reason. But whenever I see those plants, I think of the various people with fondness.

So why should it be any different with house plants? For many years, my longest lived house plant was a begonia that was a cutting from a neighbor. That neighbor is long gone, but I still referred to the begonia as “Mr. So-and So’s” begonia.

Now my longest lived house plant is a ficus that I refer to as “Grandma’s ficus,” for obvious reasons (I hope). It was given to my Grandmother on her 90th birthday in 1988. It is now mine (Gram wasn’t really into plants. I inherited it shortly thereafter, probably no later than early 1989).

Obviously I do not find this creepy at all. Then again, I work in a job where part of it is helping people who have just lost a loved one plan their funeral. So during the pandemic, especially, I have talked about death a lot to a lot of people. It’s been gut wrenching.

Sometimes, we are blessed that we do have plants to help us return to normalcy.