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Hellebores grow good enough to share

Posted: March 10, 2013 - 12:11am
One of local gardener Renee Jenkins' favorite plants are the Hellebores, which always bloom early in the year and spread easily in the garden.  Photo by Jim Blaylock
Photo by Jim Blaylock
One of local gardener Renee Jenkins' favorite plants are the Hellebores, which always bloom early in the year and spread easily in the garden.

Carol Finch doesn’t remember when or why she planted her first Hellebores, but over the years the plant has become one of her favorites and one she enjoys sharing with others.

“They’re very easy to grow,” said the Evans resident. “I have absolutely horrible soil and they do pretty well for me.”

The plants begin blooming in February and March, with the blossoms lasting for several weeks. Finch has Hellebores in purple, pink and white blooming varieties. After they bloom, the plants turn into a beautiful green plant in the garden.

Like most gardeners, Finch enjoys sharing her plants. She gave neighbor Renee Jenkins a large cluster of Hellebores several years ago.

“Renee and I have been neighbors for 15 years and have shared plants, cookies, rocks, furniture and many more items,” said Finch. “I had a fairly large clump that I divided into four parts. I gave one to her, one to another neighbor, one to another gardening friend and I kept one. At present, Renee’s has multiplied and is now bigger than all four of the others put together.”

Jenkins said Hellebores was a new plant to her.

“I’d never heard of them until Carol gave me two small plants,” she said. “Now I love them.”

Jenkins said the plants require little maintenance, aside from the routine deadheading after blooming and the pruning of winter-damaged leaves.

Finch notes that, to her knowledge, deadheading isn’t even necessary but does make the hanging blooms show better.

“They like part sun, but do require protection from the direct sun, especially from the west,” said Finch.

She also learned years ago that the plant also doesn’t need a lot of water. “About three years ago I lost at least a third of my plants to crown rot.”

A newly installed sprinkler system, coupled with poor air circulation caused by the placement of the plants, kept them wet for too long, she said.

“At this time, I have thousands of baby plants that will eventually replenish my garden,” said Finch. “I’ve removed the shrubs that were in front of them and water less. Every other day was too much.”

Jenkins lets her Helle-bores spread naturally by seed.

“The seeds are heavy and drop close to the mother plant,” she said. “Within two years, clumps will form with flowering heads.”

“They tend to be fairly pricey in nurseries,” added Finch. “I’ve acquired mine from plant swaps, friends and the occasional one that I couldn’t resist in a nursery. Once they’re established, you’ll eventually have more since they drop seeds.

“The first year that I saw the seedlings, I thought they were weeds and pulled half of them out before it dawned on me what I was doing,” said Finch. “The seedlings don’t look like the parents.

‘‘It takes from three to four years (for the Hellebores) to go from seed to flower, unless you’re Renee.”

Finch and Jenkins say the plant likely would grow well in a container, though theirs are in the ground.

“I love them,” said Jenkins. “They give you the first hope of spring’s arrival long before the daffodils begin to bloom.”

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