Hellebores- Susan Kierstead

>> The most important question is why we should grow them and that answer is easy. They feed the starving soul, since they are the first things that bloom in our gardens. They bloom for a long time. They are easy to grow. Deer and voles don’t consider them dinner. And they have a great color spectrum. In spring they remind us that the rest of the garden is not far behind. They give us a reason to walk, coffee in hand, every morning in the garden.
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>> The biggest surprise is their light requirement. Most of us, myself included, considered them shade plants. I’ve been growing hellebores for 28 years and it finally registered… the ones in the most sun are doing the best. For H. hybridus, my most vigorous ones are getting sun from 9:AM to 3:00PM. Now that is a lot of sun. Some of my H. foetidus are getting almost full sun. Only H. niger likes more shade. They all like humus rich soil, which I achieve by layers of leaves, pine needles and sticks, depending on what falls from the adjacent trees.
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>> I spoke of cutting off the old leaves. That is something that is not required, but I do it because I like the clean look when they bloom. It’s like a big bouquet of flowers. But yesterday, as the snow melted on a large patch, I discovered a reason why it is absolutely necessary to cut off the old leaves. Under the snow, the leaves and also some flowers were molding. I’m hoping by cleaning them up and allowing air to circulate, I can save the rest of the flowers.
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>> And I don’t think I differentiated enough between the species. H. foetidus should not be cut. The flower buds are on the old leaves and by cutting them you cut off the flowers. They are also very short lived, but seed prolifically, so you should never be without them.
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>> H. niger is the most difficult and I don’t think I know why. I do not get 100% when I transplant seedlings. It is the earliest to bloom, often starting in NH in early March. In my photos, it was the one blooming through the snow. It makes the best cut flower.
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>> H. hybridus is about 3 weeks later and in my experience does not bloom through the snow. In fact, that was the one that started to rot underneath late snow.
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>> I just spent the day spreading a light coating of wood ashes on all the hellebores since they appreciate a neutral to alkaline soil. Just don’t go too heavy and try not to get ashes on acid lovers that are probably close by.
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>> All hellebores are promiscuous and even in the best controlled cross, there will be variation. So when you see a plant tag with a stunning photo, buy it, but don’t count on it looking like the picture. It will be wonderful, but different.
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>> A source of irritation for me is the current labels. They tell you it is a hellebore, but then follow with a cutsey name. H. ‘Ivory Prince’ is the worst label, it often doesn’t tell you that it is a H. niger.
>> Most of the others are hybridus and are easier to grow.
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>> Susan Kierstead
>> 58 Seaverns Bridge Road
>> Amherst NH 03031
>> 603-424-2300
>>
>> Perennials From Susan
>> Friday and Saturday
>> April 19 to August 3
>> 10:00 to 4:00 2013
>> or by appointment or by chance
>>
>> amherstsusan@me.com
>> http://www.perennialsfromsusan.com
>>
>> “One can complain because rosebushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
>> Abraham Lincoln
>>
>> We recycle pots. Please return only the sizes that we sell. Better me than the dump!

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