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Vermont Garden Journal: Hellebores

GNU/Archenzo Moggio

Although we grow this plant as a perennial flower, it also has other devious uses. During the siege of Kirrha in ancient Greece, the invading armies poisoned the city's water supply with crushed roots and leaves of this flower causing the protecting armies to be weakened by diarrhea and overwhelmed. That's a good reason not to eat the leaves of your Lenten rose.

Lenten or Christmas rose is more widely known by its botanical name, hellebore. Hellebores are hard to kill, shade loving, low growing plants that are perfect for a flower border or ground cover. Hellebores have gone through a plant breeding revolution over the last 20 years. Newer hardy, hybrid varieties, such as 'Amethyst Gem' and 'Onyx Odyssey' have flowers in a wide range of colors such as white, yellow, pink, red, bi color and burgundy/black. Some flowers are up to 3 inches in diameter and have double petals.

Hellebores bloom early, sometimes in the snows of March. But the cold weather never seems to stop them. The plants stand 1 to 2 feet tall with dark green leaves. Once the spring blooms have past, it makes an excellent ground cover. I've seen groves of hellebores under old oak and maple trees. I've planted some among my hydrangeas. The hellebores have lots of light for flowering in spring, but the hydrangeas shade them from the intense summer sun.
Although you can divide and spread hellebores, there's little need. Plants will bloom for years with minimal care. And some hellebores will spread by self sowing. The final perk is that hellebores are deer resistant.

And now for this week's tip, prune your old blueberry bushes now. Blueberries younger than 7 years old rarely need pruning other than to remove dead or broken branches and shape the bush. Older bushes should be pruned to stimulate new branching, never removing more than 1 to 2 older branches per year. There should be a mix of young, middle aged and old fruiting wood.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about preserving cut flowers. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Broadcast on Friday, February 7, 2014 at 5:58 p.m. and Sunday, February 9, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.

The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and Gardeners.com.

Pruning Blueberries
The Hellebores

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