A week ago my friend and I travelled 70 miles north into southern Virginia to attend a hellebore festival at Pine Knot Farms (PKF).
I learned of this event a few years ago when the hellebore nursery owners, Dick Tyler and Judith Knott Tyler, spoke at a local garden club meeting. The couple holds this open house annually for three weekends in late winter, obviously the time when hellebores are in season.
Two years ago I had attempted to visit Pine Knot Farms but my travel plans were thwarted by an ice storm. So when after a fundraiser event last spring my friend ended up with two gift certificates for PKF, I jumped at the chance to try again to visit this nursery.
Weather in February is particularly variable and unpredictable. This year our trip seemed threatened again.
A week before the festival started, another big snow and ice storm arrived. Fortunately the ice cleared up quickly though and the day of our visit was picture-book lovely, deep blue sky, sunny and temperatures in mid-60s F. [Where I reside in piedmont North Carolina, people are used to this back and forth kind of weather, often remarking they like living in a place where they can experience four distinct seasons of the year, sometimes all in one day.]
We arrived at the hellebore festival in the late morning, about an hour after opening, surprised there were not larger crowds. We parked easily and were directed toward the greenhouses.
At the first greenhouse we were quickly ushered in and greeted by friendly smiles, shown coffee and cookies.
Next we were given guidelines about where to find each category of hellebore: seedlings on this table (some from their friends Ernie and Marietta O’Byrne at Northwest Garden Nursery), other vendors offering spring ephemerals here, all PKF singles in the back set of greenhouses on the left, PKF doubles in the greenhouse on the right (or vice-versa).
Already by this time, just hearing these directions, I was overwhelmed and I think my friend was as well.
In anticipation of this trip I had tried to prepare myself by looking on PKF’s website at the categories of hellebores they sell: Hellebores species, Interspecies Hybrids, Helleborus x hybrids, and Northwest Garden Nursery Hellebores. But despite this minor research and later during the trip, despite several engaging conversations with willing and knowledgeable staff, I was hesitant about how to sort out the differences among the hellebores being offered.
Many of the hellebores were not yet in bloom and later we wondered if our choices would have been made easier by visiting the third weekend of the festival rather than the first. Perhaps more flowers would have been open and that would have made it easier for an hellebore novices like us to decide.
I wish I had just pointed to some of the flowers floating in dishes and asked for them, but in the end it all went fine. Even though we never found hellebore enlightenment we had a good time exploring the offerings.
Before I could get started shopping for hellebores, I became distracted by other vendor tables, including one with a beautiful array of Cyclamen coum. There was also a nice display of primroses in bloom and affordably priced, but I decided to concentrate first on the hellebores. I do regret not picking up a few of these cyclamen.
We made our way into the back greenhouses. Along the route there were a few other temptations, in particular daphnes and a really nice edgeworthia.
Soon we were carrying around pots of hellebores. A white double with greenish overtones was the first plant I chose. I also found a single with a greenish cast.
Below is another single that was especially charming. The green coloring with tinges of red/pink reminds me of apple.
I selected other hellebores in Golden Sunrise and Apricot Blush color ranges. The apricot blush is not yet blooming but the golden sunrise has two flowers.
One color I was especially interested in acquiring was dark purple. I had already picked up one of these Black Diamonds without a bloom. When I asked about finding others the man I spoke to said he and others had been commenting that this year the darks are scarce. He accompanied me back to the seedlings table to help me search.
While we were talking he stopped suddenly having spotted this little plant, also a seedling. He suggested it was unusual and I might want to buy it because of it unusual marking. I did.
One useful tip he offered was that it can be more successful to gather ripened seeds and toss them where you want new plants, instead of transplanting the the little seedlings that spring up on their own.
Eventually my friend and I settled on our purchases. She generously shared a gift certificate with me, making check-out time a lot less painful. Back in Chapel Hill we discussed hellebores over a late lunch.
Unfortunately I did not get a picture of her plants before we parted; however, within a few minutes after returning home I was photographing my new plants on the front porch.
Serendipitously, a neighbor stopped by my house, opened her car trunk and lifted out two Bearclaw hellebores she had dug from her yard that morning for me. A nice gesture.
Visiting the hellebore nursery made for a fun expedition and I was happy at the chance to expand my collection. Hellebores are winter-flowering wonders.
The first day of autumn coincides with Garden Bloggers Foliage Day (GBFD). The countryside and the garden remain fairly green—very little autumnal leaf color so far. As one sign of the season, stems of the native Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) are covered in purply ripened berries.
In the Northern Hemisphere the fall season arrives today with the occurrence of the autumnal equinox, September 22 at 10:29 p.m. EDT. It was almost 90°F yesterday, but now at 5:00 p.m. it is a pleasant 71°F. The rest of the week should remain in the seventies during the day, dropping into the 50s at night.
There was a surprise shower overnight, not enough to fill the bird baths but any amount is needed and welcome. A few drops remained on this Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), decorated with bits of red as it transitions toward fall.
Strange as it seems, last week I could detect the fragrance of Winter Daphne. Three of these lovely shrubs serve as hedge at the front of our house.
Along the northern side yard camellias, gardenias and hellebores add green interest. The camellias are gaining fat buds that will open in another month to six weeks. The gardenias in this position look healthy, more so than others in the back garden. Stationed nearby Hellebores are full of strong, deep green leaves.
For several years I have been monitoring the progress of a small passalong Sarcococca ruscifolia (Fragrant Sweet Box). It requires full shade which is hard to find in my garden. I planted it underneath one of the corner ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress specimens, where it receives scant early morning sunlight. The plant remains very small but the foliage look great this year.
The only featured grass in my garden is Muhlenbergia capillaris (Pink Muhly Grass). Despite it not being very well situated, this year it looks very nice.
A big thank you to Christina at Creating my own garden of the Hesperides for hosting GBFD on the 22nd of each month.
Cathy’s In A Vase On Monday challenge encourages gardeners to create floral designs from materials gathered in our own gardens each week.
Today my display features Camellia x ‘Coral Delight’. This shrub has been full of rich, promising buds this year, but since early March, just as the flowers begin opening they are marred by unfriendly cold or rain, even ice. But I found a few blooms in good enough condition yesterday to share them.
Planted nearby the camellia, Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose) remain unfazed by winter’s tricks. Since there were not many camellias untouched by the weather, I decided the Helleborus might pair well as floating companions to the camellias, despite almost jarring color contrasts.
No floral mechanics or special techniques were required in constructing today’s design.
I gently cut the stems very short and dropped the blossoms into an Italian glass dish filled with fresh, cool water. Growing up, many a special meal would be served at my house alongside colorful camellia blooms in clear glass bowls. Hellebores were a much later discovery.
The slightest movement against the glass causes the flowers to rearrange themselves. I like the free floating results as the blossoms shift and drift.
It is late in the day but forging ahead, once again I am joining Cathy’s In A Vase On Monday challenge. Today I assembled a group of petite flowers arranged among several pieces of my daughter’s childhood tea set.
I was not sure what would be blooming this week, but immediately following an ice storm we have finally had three gorgeous blue sky, sunny days that encouraged the Narcissus ‘King Alfred’ to begin blooming. Although I was reluctant to cut these first flowers, eventually I gathered the courage and collected a couple dozen daffodils. I filled a favorite ceramic vase for a quintessential example of spring.
But while I was collecting them I also came across the first little Narcissus ‘Tete-a-Tete’ and nearby, an Iberis Sempervirens (Candytuft) showing a few open flowers.
Their dainty size appealed to me today, so I gathered them along with several sprigs of lavender and a single Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose).
Despite my hesitation to cut the Narcissus ‘King Alfred’ I am enjoying them indoors after all. They are very fragrant. These have been growing in the garden for many years, but most of the flowers seem much smaller than in years past.
These bring smiles nevertheless.
In preparation for joining Cathy’s In A Vase On Monday challenge I went out yesterday in late afternoon to see what plants I could rescue. After Sunday’s sunny 71°F. high the forecast for the upcoming week brings a blast of Arctic air with possible snow and ice, and low temperatures near 15° tonight.
It turned out there was little to rescue. The long-awaited fragrance of Daphne is beginning to be detectable near the front entrance, but the shrubs still are not in full bloom. Though there is a touch of color on several Camellia japonica buds, the daffodils continue to bide their time. Except for the hellebores the garden has surprisingly little in flower.
To hold the plant material for today’s arrangement I used 3 floral pin holders inserted into a shallow, blue and sienna glazed ceramic dish. First I added two stalks of Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose). Then I selected some branches of spiraea to add height and airiness in the back of the container.
Spherical brown cones and clipped sprigs of greenery from ‘Carolina Sapphire’ Arizona Cypress made a contrasting filler along the baseline of the arrangement.
[Note: I liked the way the helleborus looked in the arrangement but sadly they did not last even overnight this time.]
On this last Monday in February I am joining Cathy’s In A Vase On Monday challenge to arrange a container from plant materials found in one’s garden.
Today’s vase includes the first daffodils of the season. These opened in my garden on February 21 and I cut them to bring indoors yesterday. Last year many daffodils were blooming on January 30, 2013, a full three weeks earlier. We had a warm, sunny weekend with temperatures in the high 60sF so more daffodils may be encourage to open this week.
Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose) are in full bloom now and yesterday I took time to remove their large leaves so the flowers can be enjoyed more easily. There are lots of seedlings that have volunteered that I can use to make new hellebores plantings and share with friends.
A simple glass vase holds today’s colorful flowers, which seem to need little more enhancement. I photographed the arrangement by the window where the cut glass lamp played with the light. A favorite dove sculpture that had belonged to my father-in-law completes the setting.
My husband’s father died before my husband and I met, so I know little about him, but I admire his little white dove. He apparently subscribed to an art club that worked in the way many book clubs do—a sculpture of the month, I guess! This is the only example remaining from his collecting days that I know. It was fun to play with his dove and the flowers today.
The day is nearly done but I wanted to join Cathy again for In A Vase On Monday. I was happy with today’s practice of a parallel design, adapted from techniques learned in a class last spring, but photographing it proved to be beyond me today. Perhaps I will try again tomorrow with daylight for support.
The arrangement is created using three florist pins. A large Arum leaf stands to the left. Posed slightly in back of the arum, a tall branch of Wintergreen boxwood adds height on the right-hand side. A smaller arum connects the two features.
Toward the front, three red and one white cyclamen flowers tie the three sections together at mid-level, while Hellebores and Winter daphne form the base. The cyclamen are from plants I have grown indoors for many years though I have never used them in an arrangement before. They have been blooming profusely this winter, living happily on indirect light from a west-facing window and water every three or four days.
This is the materials list:
Daphne odora (Winter daphne)
Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose)
Cyclamen persicum (Persian cyclamen) – Florists’s cyclamen
Buxus microphylla var koreana ‘Wintergreen’ (Wintergreen boxwood)
On this Monday evening in early February I am joining Cathy in a flower arranging practice called In A Vase On Monday.
For today’s arrangement I selected a pair of small black vases with gold flowers that had belonged to my maternal grandmother.
Little is blooming currently but in a quick dash through the garden late this afternoon I chose some recently opened Hellebores, a pansy from the labyrinth and Daphne buds. I added a couple of flower stalks from a Beefsteak Begonia, an interesting houseplant that has been blooming for a month.
To use as green filler I envisioned freshly emerging Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine), but it wilted very quickly and had to be discarded. Instead I used two herbs, lavender and golden sage, along with a sprig of daphne. Everything was under snow last week so it was surprising the leaves are looking so well.
Color ties these simple arrangements together—pale hues of pink flowers with yellow accents, yellow margins of the Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ and golden sage, and a single yellow pansy.
This is the materials list:
Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
Helleborus x hybridus (Lenten rose)
Delta Premium Pure Primrose Pansy
Begonia ‘Erythrophylla’ (Beefsteak Begonia)
Lavandula x intermedia ‘Dutch’ (Dutch Lavender)
Salvia Dorada ‘Aurea’ (Golden Sage)
February already! It was a beautiful day in central North Carolina today, sunny and 65°F. I did not get a chance to begin winter cleanup in the garden, although it would have been a good choice. Rain moves in tonight and for the next few days and temperatures go back down.
Late this afternoon I had a few minutes to check on the Hellebores. One patch at the southwest corner of the garden is full of fat buds, while on the north side of the house the first Hellebores are finally opening.
Winter. Since the arrival of winter there have been incidents of fierce wind, record rainfall, record heat and record cold, not at the same time but within amazingly close proximity. Today the sun looks cheery but, at 36 degrees F., it is 10-15 degrees colder than normal for this time of year.
Last Wednesday a light dusting of snow fell all around us, but not a flake appeared in pbmGarden.
At this point in January last year a few daphne blossoms were open already, but they are not ready this year. Though many branches are brown-tinged from cold damage the three bushes are filled with clusters of buds, waiting.
Last year by the 8th of January Helleborus flowers were open, but today we are ten days past that mark. A very few are displaying tightly closed, pink-tinged fat buds, but on most of the plants the flowers are just barely emerging at ground level.
During this winter pause the garden is tugging at my conscience, but only a little. Oh, yes indeed—it would be a good idea to start tackling those weeds again, but like these flower buds waiting to open, I am happy to bide my time for now.