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Anne K Moore
Photographs Anne K Moore

To paraphrase Thomas Paine’s important line; these are the times that try gardeners patience. Most of the country has had its ups and downs weather-wise this past winter, especially in the last few weeks. We have freezing temperatures, snow, ice, then warming to above freezing (which could promote some trees, shrubs, and flowers into early bloom) only to be ditched into a deepfreeze again.

There is one piece of advice that all gardeners should follow. Have patience. Many of the early bloomers and leaf-outers might be knocked down and look as if they will not recover. Give them the chance. Wait until it has warmed up and the weather has stabilized before you prune or pull damaged plants. Many will surprise you with their tenacity to live.

A case in point is the hellebore, also known as winter rose, Lenten rose and Christmas rose, the tough Helleborous genus.

My Hellebores are scattered about in shady beds. They started blooming around Christmas. We had warm weather and they sent their blossoms up tall. Then the snow and ice came through. They drooped a little in their frozen skirts.

Lo and behold, 70 then 80-degree weather arrived. What is a winter bloomer to do? More buds opened and the hellebores stood tall. A few days later and winter is back with days that hardly reach above freezing. The hellebores (and us) had experienced every winter/spring/summer temperature in the span of a week. The hellebores lay down. (I confess I wanted to do the same.)

They didn’t rest for long. Giving up evidently is not in their genes. The temperatures rose to 45 and the hellebores stood up again, as they are still today in the misting rain. What a flower! Not only does it bloom when almost nothing else is out of the ground, it triumphs over every kind of weather. It might be time for you to put a few of these tough plants in your shady garden.

Posted March 7, 2014

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