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A Rose That Blooms Beneath The Snow, And How To Feed Birds With A Shrub

White hellebores.
Nik Cain
/
iStock
The Lenten rose, or hellebores, blooms in late March or early April, sometimes under the snow.

Each week, Charlie Nardozzi takes on your gardening questions and shares his expertise about outdoor gardening and indoor house plants, plus questions about what you're seeing in the natural world. This time, we'll learn about an evergreen that may already be blooming.

"Bloom where you're planted" is a common dose of healthy advice, and the Lenten rose, or hellebores, takes it to heart.

This broad-leaf evergreen flowers toward the end of March and in early April — sometimes under the snow! — and it grows about a foot tall. Hellebores is considered a ground cover, and it boasts dark green leaves with some silver mottling. The blooms can be double or single flowers, and come in a rainbow of colors: White, yellow, pink, red and even dark burgundy.

As the snow recedes after a harsh winter or after a winter with lots of temperature fluctuation, you might notice your hellebores' foliage looking a little worse for wear. Remedy that by cleaning it up, and then just let the buds grow. Once bloomed, you can enjoy them as cut flowers.

(Do note this plant is poisonous for kids and pets to ingest).

After the blooms fade, hellebores turns into a dark green ground cover, which you can enjoy throughout the season.

Q: Do you have suggestions for the best types of shrubs to plant and cultivate? ... I'm in Cornwall, so lots of clay and rocks. Are any good at surviving in clay? Can you just plant shrubs in piles of soil? We are using raised beds for veggies. Is there a similar approach for shrubs? — Andrea, Cornwall

If you have heavy clay, creating a raised bed will help any plant grow faster and stronger. But you can also have greater success by planting a native shrub.

The real plus, besides looking great in your landscape, is that native shrubs with berries can attract many birds. Types like serviceberry, dogwoods, and some of the twig dogwoods are beautiful shrubs that do well in clay soil and part-shade conditions. They are also very attractive to caterpillar larvae, which in turn, brings on the birds.

Birds use your native shrubs for the berries. For instance, to keep a brood of chickadees fed, from hatching to fledging, a mama chickadee will need 300 to 500 caterpillars each day! Keep them in mind as you choose native shrubs like nannyberry, azaleas and elderberries.

To keep costs down, one great source for these native plants are the 14 conservation districts throughout the state. Deadlines for ordering are generally at the end of March, then you can pick them up in May to plant.

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All Things Gardening is powered by you, the listener! Send your gardening questions and conundrums and Charlie may answer them in upcoming episodes. You can also leave a voicemail with your gardening question by calling VPR at (802) 655-9451.

Hear All Things Gardening during Weekend Edition Sunday with VPR host Mary Engisch, Sunday mornings at 9:35.

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