The question was posed as to why some Hellebore’s can be entered into Flower Show judging and others are rejected. Here’s the long answer.
Understanding the botany of the Hellebore will help explain the answer to the Flower Show suitability.
The attraction and colors of the Hellebore, Figure #1, are not supplied by petals but rather sepals. Petals are usually lost after a flower is fertilized but sepals and bracts don’t suffer the same fate and are persistent
Sepals (A) normally form outside of petals as a protection and support of the bud and flower. There are usually 5 sepals, two outer, two inner and one both. A group of sepals is called a calyx.
The stamens (B) are the male part of the flower and are made up of 2 parts, the long white filament and the anther that sits on top holding the pollen. There can be up to 150 stamens per flower.
The stamens surround the female part of the flower, the carpel (C). Fertilization of the carpels can be by insects, bees or wind.
Replacing the petal in the case of Hellebores are small nectaries (D) that sit at the base of the sepals and provide food for pollinators. They don’t last very long and are shed at the same time as the stamens when the carpels swell with what will become seeds.
Fertilized Hellebores can seem attractive for quite a long time since the sepals are persistent and the swollen carpels (E) are distinctive. The sepals will tend to loose their color vibrancy over time however.
Because the Hellebore in Figure #2 is a fertilized flower, even though the sepals still appear fresh, this is not the stage when it is an acceptable specimen in a formal Flower Show submission.
So, the short answer to the question of whether the Hellebore in Figure #2 is acceptable for Flower Show judging is: No, since the center is a fertilized seed pod.
My thermostat read 10° last night so when it’s that cold I tend to warm myself by planning what I will be doing this coming year in my garden. It is the calm before the storm.
I like to read so with a hot cup of coffee and sometimes a blanket over my lap I settle down to a good book of how others tend their gardens seeking inspiration and camaraderie. I read new books but often I like to reread those of old friends I have in my library. Christopher Lloyd’s “The Well-Tempered Garden” is a perennial (hee hee) favorite. Other authors are: Dominique Browning, Joe Eck, Nancy Goodwin, Allen Lacy, Fred McGourty, Henry Mitchell and Vita Sackville-West.
For more technical information and garden planning I read Michael Dirr for woody plants and Allan Armitage for perennials. If you’d like to replant a garden with a more natural look I read the work of Piet Oudolf, the Dutch plantsman.
Reading Garden Blogs online are a path to many hours spent without realizing that spring is around the corner or dinner needs planning. I read a few regularly.
Garden Rant is written by 5 different authors and covers amazing amounts of gardening, history and controversy.
Try them at: http://gardenrant.com.
To give myself some ideas and recipes, I always turn to my favorite gardening blog written by Margaret Roach, A Way To Garden. Formerly a Newsday garden writer and the garden editor for Martha Stewart Living, Margaret has, among other wonderful advice, a monthly chore list, which is written for where she lives and gardens in zone 5. This is colder and therefore sometimes slightly later than we are here in our toasty zone 7.
You can find this gem at http://awaytogarden.com.
I was going to list all the various sources for gardening catalogs that will take over your budget and common sense but I’ll just post here Margaret Roach’s resource page, which says it all.
Sit down, take a deep breath, rest, relax and learn, since before you know it we’ll be out digging holes again!
I lost some friends.
Sandy came to visit and in a fury broke, smashed and tore away some of my garden friends. These huge and venerable trees were here before I moved into their space many decades ago. They’ve provided me with the backbones of my woodland garden. They helped me design the paths I carved out of the thickets. They offered the strong verticals of a towering garden design.
These old oaks shared their shade keeping me cool in the summer. This shade offered me the opportunity to explore the great variety of plants and shrubs that thrive in their speckled light. Shredded oak leaves of these generous trees have been the basis of the garden mulch that nourishes my woodland garden.
I am mourning the loss of what was.
But now I’ve planted bulbs where the oaks once stood.
I look forward in the spring to enjoying their sunshine.
The term “bulb” is used by most people to refer to plants that have underground, fleshy storage structures. Only some of the plants commonly called bulbs actually are bulbs. The general definition of a bulb is any plant that stores its complete life cycle in an underground storage structure. These underground storage structures store nutrient reserves to ensure the plants’ survival.
Tubers, rhizomes, corms, and bulbs actually all serve the same purpose, just in a different way. They are each a storage unit for food that gives the plant the energy it needs to grow, bloom, and complete its lifecycle each and every year.
The energy is created and stored by the foliage’s photosynthesis. You’ve probably heard that it’s important not to cut back the foliage after the bloom has died. That is because the leaves need to have time to absorb energy for next year’s bloom. Each storage system takes differing amounts of time to perform this task. Examples would be Alliums and Daffodils.
Bulbs or bulb-like plants are usually perennials. They have a period of growth and flowering. This is followed by a period of dormancy where they die back to ground level at the end of each growing season.
As with perennials there are bulbs that are hardy in our climate and others that must be overwintered as house plants or placed in dormant storage.
Bulbs can be broken down into five types of storage structures. These include: true bulbs, corms, (stem) tubers, tuberous roots and rhizomes.
Leeks and Pearl Onions. Graphite drawing by Mary Ahern
The backbone of the shade gardener’s summer display has been Impatiens for as long as I’ve been gardening (which is longer than I’ll post in a public forum. But that long starring role has come to an abrupt halt this year due to the infamous, Downy mildew fungal like disease caused by the pathogen, Plasmopara obducens. The symptoms caused millions of gardeners to drag out their hoses in attempts to combat the disease, which mimicked the appearance of water starved plants.
This tremendous shake-up in the Horticultural industry has growers, breeders and chemists scrambling for solutions and workarounds. It is affecting this billion dollar industry in big and small ways at a time when our economy is struggling. The gardener goes to the nursery to place part of their closely budgeted money to bring a season of color and happiness to their home. The nursery is in a seasonally based business & feels the pressure of cultivating new customers into the Art of gardening as well as taking care of their established base of avid buyers.
Under competitive pressure these nurseries offer their customers plant warranties. It boggles the mind how a seasonal small business would be able to sustain themselves when a calamity like the collapse of the stalwart impatiens plants would affect their bottom line once the warranties start rolling in.
One of the largest growers and breeders of Impatiens is right here on Long Island. Ivy Acres, located in Baiting Hollow, supplies a customer base not only on Long Island but also in New Jersey, Westchester County & Southwestern CT. They are the suppliers to the wholesale nurseries, so the chain of businesses affected continues up the chain of distribution.
What does that mean for us, the local gardener? What that means is that there is immense pressure to bring to market disease resistant replacements for the annual market geared to shade tolerant plants. For the next few years we will be seeing a tremendous array of new opportunities and options as replacement plants are introduced into the Horticultural market stream.
According to Mark Viette on his Sunday morning WOR radio show some suggested replacements for our dearly departed Impatiens walleriana at the moment are:
- New Guinea Impatiens
For more information on this new gardeners heartbreak visit the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk county and download their .pdf flyer titled “Impatiens Downy Mildew in The Landscape“
So now, after an unusually warm & snow free winter, the weather has already skimmed the high ’80′s during the month of May. As I sit on my deck exhausted from the heat, wondering how I’m ever going to be able to do all my planting after I’ve indulged at our plant sale & exchanged plant trophies with my gardening girlfriends.
The good news is that I’m a shade gardener. (That’s not to be confused with a shady gardener.) If I play my cards right I never have to bow down in the bright sun, slather myself in sunblock, or supply myself with a straw hat. The sun, which in my youth was my friend, now entices me only from sheltered nooks.
I garden in full shade, dappled shade, high shade, mostly shade & some minimal shade. Because shade is an elusive distinction, my garden is a type of laboratory. Often I’ll divide a plant in order to test the shade tolerances of specific species or cultivars. I document my garden with extensive photos & data as part of my enjoyment of the Art of gardening.
Shade gardens are about subtleties. Textures of leaves, the size & scale of those leaves, the shiny leaves versus those with indumentation, rough to the touch or smooth as suede. Color in the shade is not blinded out by the harsh sunshine. One can appreciate the varieties of green, the blue-greens, the lime-greens, the purple-greens & how about green-green. The color of an emerging stem or bud versus that in its maturity is quite an event to observe in the shade garden.
My shade garden is zen-like for me. It’s about savoring the space, the sounds of the birds singing for their supper, the smell of the soil on moist mornings, the wandering on my woodland walks.
Oh, and one final thing, because of the shade there is very little weeding to be done. Sweet!
My garden doesn’t go into the winter season all tidy & neat. I enjoy seeing seed heads popping through the snow. The visual treat of shadows cast about by the wind, dancing along the walls seen from the windows of my warm home.
From my dining room window, the seed heads of tall grasses are seen swaying in the breeze with the floodlight of the pure winter sun behind them.
From the kitchen window the afternoon sun gleams through the slivers of peeling bark of the Acer griseum, wisely named Paperbark Maple. Tissue thin decorations provided by nature.
What a joy to watch teensy birds land on the seed stalks of last summer’s Echinacea, barely bending them. My winter garden provides them a smorgasbord of treats so they keep coming back for more. We have an agreement.
The evergreen stalwarts of my woodland garden, the hellebores & Polystichum acrostichoides (what a fabulous name for a Christmas fern), help to delineate the pathways once the snow has fallen. They’re markers keeping me on the right track. I need that help quite often.
The hellebores serve another important service. They are the harbingers of spring. As I enjoy the subtle visual treats of winter I can’t help but poke underneath their large leaves seeking hungrily the buds signaling the beginnings of a new season of visual excitement.
One of the ways I plan for next year’s garden is to take a look around, make notes & gather ideas from other gardens. This is particularly helpful in planning the fall garden.
I look for what plants have continued to hold their own & still look beautiful into this time of year. I avoid looking for suggestions at the nurseries & gardening centers because those plants have been coddled, fed, trained, trimmed & produced specifically to entice you to buy them as your own garden fades.
Instead, I look at the gardens of my friends. Which plants are in bloom & in which colors? Which have stood the ravages of a long season of pests, fungus & weather to still look stunning? Which plants have resisted the need for staking & other high maintenance gardening chores?
Here are a few of the choices you’ll find in the fall garden:
Chelone lyonii ‘Hot Lips’
This cultivar is a bit shorter than the Chelone oblique & the pink color a bit brighter. It needs no staking & reliably blooms for weeks on end. The dried heads look stunning in the winter sun as they’re popping up through the snow.
Angelica is a sturdy biennial, which reseeds conservatively in the mixed border.
This chest high specimen blooms on tall stalks with purple broccoli like flowers adorning them for weeks on end. Just be careful not to lose them by being to earnest in your springtime weeding or you’ll miss out on this fall wonder.
This 4’ tall and 4’ wide no maintenance fall blooming plant sports pearl like buds of yellow flowers in the shade garden. No staking, no pruning, no pests. Just sturdy, reliable performance.
Call your friends. Visit your neighbors. See what’s blooming in their gardens as you plan for next year’s fall extravaganza.
Deadheading the spent flowers on a rhododendron tends to focus the energy of the plant towards new flower production and general plant health. It also improves the sight of the plant when not in bloom.
To deadhead, use your fingers and gently rock the base of the spent flower truss back and forth until it separates from the plant. That’s it. Now you can either toss the spent bloom under the shrub for mulch or discard on the compost heap. Your fingers might get a bit sticky from the residue but that’s part of the fun of gardening.
I tend to deadhead my rhodi’s in the evening after I’ve worked all day in the garden and I’m strolling around to admire my work. I usually stop when it gets dark and that’s how I know it’s dinner time.