Thursday, March 15, 2012

Discovering a Wallflower...

Lured by another unbelievably warm day, I emerged from my hobbit hole to see what else was popping up around the yard.  Lo and behold, right outside my side door, on the north side of our house, I find this "little" gem, my hellebore!  Definitely not your average nursery plant, I always forget about its existence because it's biggest shine time is late winter and I am generally indoors nestling by a warm fire.  The rest of the year its greenery remains hidden in the midst of a host of rogue meadow rues and japanese anenomes.  It always seems to catch me unawares, like turning a corner and running into an old acquaintance...nice in other words.

This garden plant, cultivated now for centuries with their exact origin not really known, were used medicinally at one time.  They've been found in Europe around the ruins of monasteries connecting their use with herbal medicine.  I can only imagine the monks clothed in their coarse brown robes,  gathering the leaves of this plant to make into some bitter decoction. Monks aside, they've recently become more popular in North America and can be found in many garden catalogs. I received my specimen by my gardening neighbor friend.
  She had three of them, buying one a year, because they weren't blooming and she thought the plants were defective.  However, it seems that the Hellebore is so slow to bloom that it takes about three years.  Now the one she gifted me with bloomed within the year (it being the ripe old age of three); good thing too because I was not convinced it was worth a place in my already crammed garden.  After all, I had raised all my perennials and had now retired from planting any others.  My botanical routine now consisted of planting only annual flowers in pots and vegetable gardens. Besides, my overcrowded flower beds  were completely unwilling to welcome any newcomers and I couldn't blame them. After all, they had tolerated my over-planting tendencies for many years and how could I ask them to move over to make room for another child, er, I mean, plant?!  Well, as a gardener, I couldn't resist.  It looked, well, you know, kind of interesting.  I mean, it couldn't hurt to give it a try, could it? Much to their dismay, I managed to make some room for this unpromising looking plant, and I'm so glad I did!  It's hardy, loves sun and shade, drought resistant AND it blooms during the most plant desolate season, late winter!  Oh, and did I mention how lovely these bashful beauties are?  Just take a peek under those seemingly innocent petals and you'll be blown away by their spectacular blushing "faces."  
      There you have it, Helleborus, truly an overlooked and underrated plant.  I came very close to passing over it myself, but gardening sense intervened and it's now happily settled.  It may not be a showy peony or a rambling rose; rather more like the proverbial wall flower, but hey, watch out for those wallflowers, if you lift up their chins, they truly shine!
Time for a chilled Jasmine Tea break...ahhhh!

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