HELEN LANG: Hellebores require a touch of care to thrive

That snow was a bit of a shock, and icy streets and sidewalks as well – a good time to stay at home and curl up with a good book.

Of course, if you work, you don’t have a choice, but please take care.

I drove with Barbara, my eldest, to Costco yesterday and it was a thrill a minute on the highway, but she is a confident driver (and a fast one, as well).

I don’t think she was aware of how tightly I was holding on and I only prayed under my breath, and we made the trip OK. She, eyes alight with the thrill. Me, pale, crouched down as low as I could get without lying on the floor.

All I got were some frozen fruit and a big piece of cheddar cheese, but she buys for the food bank on Pender Island so there was a basket full of goodies.

It was interesting that gas there was the same price as it is in Sidney.

Today I thought we might talk about hellebores. These are perennial plants, some of which bloom at this time of year.

We had a lovely one, H. niger, which grew under the shelter of a juniper bush by the front porch. It was such a thrill to see those greenish-white blooms when there was snow resting on top of the juniper.

Some years later I bought another hellebore in a weak moment and planted it in a bed facing the street. It hated it there, and I hated it there, it just didn’t do well. It looked very unhappy even when in bloom.

I hope Annie has moved it into a more comfortable location, because these things are not cheap, and need to be in a spot where they can be admired, not just tolerated.

Hellebores come in a number of colours. The “Christmas rose” has the above-mentioned greenish white blooms, whereas the “Lenten rose” which flowers later, has blooms ranging from light green to chocolate brown, or purple.

My book advises that both require some shade, a yearly application of rotted cow manure, and a layer of peaty compost one inch thick. They like a moist soil, but not a wet one.

They have dark evergreen artistically divided foliage which is, itself, beautiful.

If you have a few bucks to spare I think you’d be more than happy with one of these beauties. I can’t help but wonder how they would do in a large pot.

Helen Lang has been the Peninsula News Review’s garden columnist for more than 30 years.

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