Hellebore buds have been pushing their way above the soil in recent weeks with their pretty promises and once again I found myself dithering over whether to cut the foliage back or not, as is often recommended. I can understand removing tatty foliage, but until recently I would not have gone along with removing all the leaves as we are often advised to do. However, having seen my H niger ‘Christmas Carol’ quite literally bloom prolifically for the first time a couple of years ago after having had its leaves removed, I am now prepared to condone the practice. Unlike more pristine beds, where naked hellebore blooms are surrounded by bare earth, in our garden their dignity is protected by other greenery and the effect is not displeasing.
There are lots of other pretty promises around too, lifting the spirits of anyone downcast by the relative greyness of recent weeks. Most witch hazels are showing a speck or more of colour now – and confusing the camera about what to focus on, so here are just two in-focus examples, ‘Orange Peel’ and ‘Jelena’:
Snowdrops are always a struggle (for me) to photograph, and here is my earliest flowering snowdrop ever, Faringdon Double (a replacement kindly given by Anna of Green Tapestry after an earlier loss and sadly very out of focus), and generous spikes of Mrs McNamara and G woronowii. Carol Klein writes in December’s Gardeners’ World magazine that the pendulous shape of snowdrops is no accident, giving protection to any insect that comes along, the slightly higher temperature inside the flower encouraging scent, nectar and pollen, and therefore increasing the likelihood of pollination. Clever stuff!
After the prolonged flowering last winter of Lonicera fragrantissima beside the lychgate I wanted to add more of these shrubby honeysuckles, now beginning to really appreciate the value of winter fragrance in the garden. The shrub border therefore became home to L standishii ‘Budapest’ and L purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’, both of which have been producing the odd flower or two over the last few weeks. The latter are twice as big as those of the more usual L fragrantissima but the former, despite being described as having pinkish-white flowers, a little disappointingly do not.
As a novice on growing a wide range of grasses, I am learning that some are not always hardy in UK winters so today I have lifted Pennisetum rubrum and P villosum and potted them up in the greenhouse. In retrospect, could I perhaps have left the bulk of them in situ and just taken some small divisions as a precaution do you think? P rubrum has certainly had enough for this year but I am still enjoying the fluffy tails of P villosum. I wonder if there are any other grasses that ought to be lifted…
It has been dry and more than just a tad windy today as Desmond has breezed his way across the UK, but I reckoned that my bricks were not going to budge easily so tackled my latest bricklaying project this afternoon; as always, using reclaimed bricks gives it an immediate aged appearance. The path will certainly be all the better for its increased width and for not having soil washed onto it so readily. The little pile of tiles in the foreground will be used to edge the wisteria which is what you see on the right of the picture – just a little stick 15 years ago!
And yes, I also made the time to cut the hellebore leaves – or at least some of them…