Six on Saturday: 06 March 2021: hellebore hard sell

A bright, sunny and frosty morning in Brussels today, cold enough for the bird bath to have frozen solid. It’s been a busy week, work-wise and garden-wise, with quite a lot of clearing out in the borders, pruning a few climbers, tidying up the terrace, strengthening the cat defence system in the veg bed (yes, I’m afraid the cat was so tempted by the deluxe toilet facilities here that it crept under the chicken wire, but last week’s hazel pole system is still holding up well against feline ingenuity), and getting a new path put in. It feels like a good day to be sowing some more seeds, though space on windowsills is rapidly running out. I went on another garden jaunt last Sunday, to visit an Arboretum about 20 km away, where temptation awaited me in the form of a hellebore plant sale. So that leads me on to the first items in today’s Six on Saturday, the regular weekly garden round-up hosted without fail by The Propagator:

1 Hellebore x hybridus. I want you to imagine giant six foot high hellebores, their flowers proudly displayed against a perfect blue sky. You marvel at their beauty as you walk past, each flower exquisitely displayed at eye-level. You want to take them home with you. The reality? They were in pots on a tall shelving unit at the plant sale, so this may be the only time I see the flowers from below, unless I become a woodlouse with a camera. The grower’s hard sell technique was effective of course, even though I’ve been a hellebore sceptic up to now. I only took a limited about of cash with me, thankfully, so could only buy two, this one and number two.

2 Hellebore x hybridus. Now they need to be housed comfortably chez moi, without the shelving unit. I was thinking of the glade area (or glade-in-the-making), a dark green holly as their backdrop, the neighbour’s overhanging lime tree branches above, and planted with crocuses around them. Apparently they need light even during the summer, so planting under a high tree canopy is ideal. In Gardening with Woodland Plants, Karan Junker adds they are greedy, needing lots of organic matter dug in to sustain their deep root system before planting, and benefitting from a generous mulch in late summer, when they are forming next year’s flower buds. Note to self: don’t forget!

3 New path. Hopefully you can see before and after shots in the image compare. We have extended the gravel path to go round the house to the back terrace, where the back door and shed are. Or to be accurate, we got a couple of blokes in to do it for us, otherwise I very much doubt it would have been completed in one and a half days! The path will make for a less muddy experience all round and I think it adds some additional structure to the garden, as well as some path-side planting opportunities.

4 Anemone blanda. This is not a success story. I planted around 50 of the little bulbs last autumn, and so far I’ve seen about five flowers popping up here by the front path. On top of that, they’re shy and I’ve only seen them fully open once. I should have read the warning in the specific epithet ‘blanda’, meaning mild. I won’t bother with them again, and after seeing so many lovely early spring bulb combos created by fellow Six-on-Saturday bloggers – Hortus Baileyana and Paddy Tobin, an Irish Gardener come to mind – but there are many more – in future I’m going to put all the early spring bulbs in one place with the new hellebores.

4 The vibrant border. This is the new bed I created last autumn, planted up with tulips and allium Purple Sensation, plus divisions of existing plants such as orange oriental poppies and Geums. Some purple salvias are there too, having survived winter so far, and a clump of day lilies. Annuals sown this year will be added at the back – sunflower Velvet Queen, bright Tithonias, Cleome Violet Queen (maybe – see below) and probably nasturtiums at the front to replace the tulips. So, I know it doesn’t look like much now, but I have high hopes!

5 Cleome: the miracle seedling. Just one Cleome has germinated! After reading up about them, they apparently need lots of light plus changes in temperature to germinate, and they also hate root disturbance, so I probably should have sown them into deeper biodegradable pots. The chillies and sweet peppers are growing on well to the right.

6 Viburnum carlesii. I love seeing these flower buds emerge and develop. Looking forward to the incredible perfume when they open up into white pompoms.

So, I had better get on with sowing some seeds – I was thinking of carrots, radishes and some salads which can be put out in the plastic greenhouse – and then a few annuals – choices, choices. Wishing everyone a great weekend whatever you’re up to, and thanks for reading.

46 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: 06 March 2021: hellebore hard sell

  1. Hi Sel, full of promises with your seedlings! The “vibrant bed” will certainly be wonderful.
    Nice to see these 2 photos of hellebores with this blue sky
    Last thing, my first anemone blanda has opened yesterday too. I love this bright blue colour and pollinating bugs will love them too.

    1. Thanks Fred, do you have more success with your anemone blanda? How many bulbs? I wonder if mine were eaten by the squirrels. I agree the blue is lovely. I just want more of it!

      1. I planted about 20 of them a few years ago and there are about 10 left. I suspect that worms bury the bulbs as for the tulips which year after year disappear if we are not careful

  2. I have some similar looking hellebore hybridis and would dearly like to add more, I would have been laden down if I had been at that plant sale! The new path looks great and the new border full of promise. On the anemone blanda topic, mine also seem to come and go. Just spotted a few breaking through this year so maybe they are becoming more established.

  3. You’ve done a good job with the new path – it looks great. That was a cunning way of displaying the hellebores. I’m beginning to consider myself a ‘former hellebore sceptic’ after acquiring three of them – although I’ve not planted any of them yet so I may change my mind if they don’t do well. A yellow variety is very tempting.

  4. Your new path looks great, and what a huge difference it makes to that corner of the garden! Those Hellebores look lovely. I’m hoping mine will flower in spring (September/October). It is in a pot, and after reading that they have deep root systems, I’m wondering if I should just plant it directly into the garden. Mmm. I will have to find out more about them. Hope you have a lovely week!

    1. Many thanks, a bit of hard landscaping can really help lift a garden, ours was a bit lacking in structure when we moved here nearly 4 yrs ago. I think your hellebores should be ok in pots if they are deep enough? And you will be able to admire the flowers more in pots than in the ground I think.

  5. Great photos of the hellebores – you’re absolutely right, we don’t often see them from below!

    I grew Cleome a couple of years ago. A beautiful plant, but I seem to remember I had quite poor germination too. Mind you, they make quite sizeable plants, so you don’t need many!

  6. What I would give for a hellebore sale in my state! And, I’d take the plastic card, not just a few dollars. Interesting that you’ve had poor germination on cleome. Usually its a quickie, although I usually grow the white and not the pink or purple. Biggest problem for me is self-seeding once you have it…it’s everywhere and extremely prolific!

    1. They wouldn’t take plastic – they didn’t have the card machine – it probably saved me a fortune! We’ll see what happens with the Cleome, and thanks for warning me re self-seeding, will try to remember to cut the flower heads off them before they get to it!

  7. Taking pics of Hellebores tends to be a challenge. You can get down on your belly or prop the flowers up with twigs. Or sometimes you’re lucky and you find a flower that is a bit upward facing. I like your yellow Hellebore a lot. I had no idea that Cosmos were so difficult to germinate – I’m going to be trying some Cosmos seeds myself, starting some inside and some outside. My older son went to Belgium with his wife and thought the cities were beautiful. He liked the food, too. All I know of Belgium comes from watching The Break on Netflix.

    1. Cosmos normally germinate quite happily for me, outside later in the year, or inside sooner. It’s Cleome that seems tricky, but maybe I’m just being impatient and need to wait a bit longer! It’s nice to hear that your son and his wife liked Belgium. The cities are often lovely, with interesting architecture and a lot of history. It’s complicated too, with two main language communities, the French-speaking Walloons and the Dutch-speaking Flems, and they are culturally quite different from each other too – but somehow things seem to work out, helped by a healthy sense of the ridiculous or absurd, which I admire the Belgians for!

  8. Your red hellebore is a beauty. I need more colourful ones and some of the doubles are so beautiful. Hellebores are one plant which does ok in my wet and windy garden! Just as well as I have about a dozen seedlings to pot on soon! I haven’t even begun any seed sowing yet as I need to get to the garden centre for some compost and I keep putting it off. Can’t wait too much longer though.

    1. Thank you, so hellebores like it wet and windy, do they? They should be ok here, it’s a sheltered garden but can be very wet in winter. I feel a compulsion to sow a few seeds in late Feb to help me feel better! Even though everyone says they grow stronger sown later, it does me good. 🙂

      1. Haha… I don’t have room until I can put some of my tender plants outside. Hopefully it won’t be too long. My house has hardly any windowsills so I have to use the conservatory and it is cold in there so not good for germination until the sun gets round a bit more. To be honest, I’m better off buying seedlings, but I do like growing my sweet peas from seed.

    1. Oh a greenhouse, what a dream! Sometimes I wonder if I could squeeze just a little one in. I have two of the little plastic stand-up ones which do a good job of housing seedlings once they are safe to be outside. But one I could walk I to would be nice!

  9. Hellebore #2 is very painterly. The garden path extension is a success. I appreciated seeing your bed and hearing your plans for planting. I am picturing an abundance of yellows and oranges with the occasional splash of purple. Being able to see the potential is one of the gardener’s most important gifts.

  10. Thanks for the name check (blushes). Great looking path! The summer bed sounds like it’s going to be gorgeous. I’ve yet to see any sign of the anemone I planted. I don’t know if they are late or if they just disappeared. I love Fred’s worm theory.

  11. The Hellebores look realy great and have nice colors. I love the new paths you created too. The new border will certainly give you a lot of joy and lets hope the cat uses the right place in the garden 😉 Have a lovely weekend.

  12. I have anemone blanda growing in gravel under a crabapple tree – Malus floribunda. It’s a little formal area, a box hedge marking off an area around the tree so it is clearly a specimen rather than simply on of the general garden trees – the only such tree in the garden. Anyway, underneath is gravel planted with Anemone blanda, crocus and some Anemone nemerosa – this latter didn’t spread very much compared to how it does elsewhere in the garden. The Anemone blanda has made a patch, about a square metre, and hasn’t gone much beyond that boundary in 30 years. An occasional seedling will pop up in nearby beds but won’t take the competition of other plants won’t doesn’t thrive there.

    1. Funnily enough I was considering adding a crab apple to the glade, with spring bulbs under it. I think I can squeeze one in. In a small garden like mine you have to think really hard before planting a tree, but I think crabapple is the way to go: it’s small, it’s got more than one season of interest and it feeds the birds. That’s a lot of boxes ticked. And perhaps I’ll have more luck with Anemone blanda underneath it, like you.

  13. Nice hellebores! I can see why they made it into your shopping bag. Love your before and after shots. I didn’t know you could scroll photos back and forth like that. How useful! Cleome are a law unto themselves I’ve found. Yours with be wonderfully strong and healthy with all that focus on it.

    1. WordPress has lots of hidden tricks! Their chat support is also amazing, they were so helpful when I had a couple of technical breakdowns. Thank you for your kind words re the Cleome, it will be nurtured!

  14. Hi Sel, the new path looks fabulous and will be so useful. I’ve also fallen in love with the yellow hellebore – how wonderful to be at a hellebore sale!

  15. It seems like the weather in Brussels is almost in tune with the UK…

    Since returning my Pestbye cat scarer because it stopped working the neighbours cat has returned to their delux toilet. I had hoped they would not notice but at 01.30 in the morning it set off the security camera and the BING BONG notification via my phone woke me from a deep sleep … and in true tom and jerry style I levitated to the ceiling at the speed of light as I grabbed by phone to see if we had an intruder stealing my secret Stacie of toilet rolls and teabags.. nope. Neighbours cat.

    Now I have finished my g and t I am off to set up a barricade around the perimeter of the veg patch. War has been declared and another cat scarer on order

    1. Crikey, that’s serious! Hope the new cat scarer works, so at least you can sleep soundly. Another trick that works well for me is to spray the cat with the hose whenever you see it in flagrante, they seem to get the message! Good luck…

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