Hellebore Experiment-The Results


It was just that, an experiment. Feeling less than energetic, less than the hyperactive can’t sit still gotta be doing something and it better be garden oriented type of individual we normally are this past hard and long winter, so go away already Old Man Winter!, led to it. The experiement that is.


One of our very first posts, back when we first began blogging and were posting every single day, that lasted about three months before the light bulb finally illuminated that it was just too much, was about the imperative of cutting off the old hellebore foliage before the new buds arose. As if we knew what we were talking about. Ah, youth. Click here-Cutting Of The Hellebores if you are interested in that early post. The next year we wrote again on the same topic. Again, click here-Cutting Of The Hellebores-2009 Edition if you wish to see it.


The hellebore population explosion here has been nothing short of astounding. Going back into time, back to the life in Texas, a hellebore was mailordered, from White Flower Farm I believe, and it came at a dear price. Into the sandy alkaline soil north of Houston it went. Then came the first grandchild, back in Tennessee, from whence we came. The Noah’s Ark of plants were repotted, as had been done for the move down there from another spot in Tennessee, the same place where said grandchild was living. Back we came to the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, plants loaded to the ceiling of the gas guzzler, among them the new hellebore, no name, just H. orientalis.


Planted on the freshly cleared and mulched steeply sloping north facing hillside behind the house, well before the renovation had even begun, the hellebore was plopped, along with all the other potted things brought in the move. Young pink dogwoods were added to provide some shade, some dug by the backhoe from along the fence where they had been planted while offspring Semi and Chickenpoet lived in the house, to be moved out of harm’s way for the construction. Also planted was a row of river birches along the fenceline, but they were all quite small, the way we like to buy things for price and for ease of hole digging. The baby trees did not provide much, if any shade. It was mid June 2000 and the heat of summer had just begun, a terrible time to plant things in the southeast US. But a sprinkler was set up at the top of the hill to cast water down on the new plantings. The hellebore thrived and two more were added, a white and a darker pink to join the light pink of the original. These colors were not known at the time of planting, but there may have been tags calling them Royal Heritage. It is a little hazy, that memory.


Time passed and the hellebores bloomed every spring. There was a pond dug and redug several times below the hellebore row. The dirt, it was too dreadful to be called soil, solid red clay, was piled on top of the hellebores during these pond renovations, sitting there for weeks while the work was completed. When the area was tidied up, the big chunks of clay chucked to the fenceline, there were little shiny green spoon shaped seedlings under the large leather hellebore leaves. Could these be baby hellebores? It had been several years since the move and planting, with nothing showing in the way of reproduction as described in book and magazine articles about hellebore colonizations. This might be it, the beginning of such a takeover and we were beyond thrilled at the thought of a hillside of hellebores.


More time passed. Those first babies had been spread to every empty spot of earth in the Fairegarden. Those were now throwing babies on their own everywhere, in the middle of paths, under rocks, in the algae of the pond, little shiny green spoons with world domination in mind. They were no longer being spread about. In fact, some were being dug out and discarded, many into the gardens of others, offspring and friends far and near. A batch of tiny ones were even taken to the first garden bloggers meet up in Austin, to be passed around to anyone that would accept them, wrapped in wet paper towels and inserted into plastic baggies. I wonder if any of those passalongs lived.


Enough time has passed. It is now current day. We are back to the beginning of this round about story. The lack of energy, emotional and physical to cut the hellebore leaves combined with thoughts to the future when it won’t be I don’t feel like it, it will be I cannot do it, for this task. What would happen if the leaves remained? In the beginning of this Fairegarden, the leaves were not cut, although the plants were so much smaller then. There weren’t even blooms for a couple of years. There would be no cutting of the old foliage this year, it was decided. Day after day, when the garden perusal tour could happen when the rain and/or snow would stop, those old brown tattered leaves mocked us, laughed haughtily at us, threw rocks at us with their appaling appearance. It took great strength of will to not seek revenge with the felcos, but we resisted the taunts.


The new leaves have arisen. The buds have opened into blooms. Most of the plants look good, or good enough to justify the lack of leaf cutting, if we squint our eyes. We have learned over the years that squinting is a necessary part of gardening as we age. We must learn to live with less than perfect.


The very worst is Big Mamma, the original Noah’s Ark inhabitant brought here from Texas, mother to millions. It might be her immense size, or just the growth habit, but there are old leaves held high amongst the new leaves and flowers rather than politely sprawling flat on the ground like most of the other hellebores, going quietly into the night. In fact, as time moves forward, the old leaves are becoming flatter and flatter as the new leaves enlarge. But Big M is waving the flag of defiance, shouting epitaphs to promote guilt in the gardener for not seeing to her grooming needs. Okay Ms. Mamma, it is to the salon with you, as soon as the weather will allow. But for you, only you, will this beauty regimen be performed. We owe it to you, for the population production you have performed.


The big reveal. The deed is done, and the sun even came out for a nicer portrait to be taken. It was not difficult, cutting just one plant’s old leaves, but to be honest, from a distance there is little difference. We shall see which way the wind blows next winter, to cut or not to cut will be the question.

Frances

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49 Responses to Hellebore Experiment-The Results

  1. Sunita says:

    Oh such pretty flowers, Frances! I cant imagine what a whole hillside of them must look like. Lovely!
    Big Mamma does look stunning after her hair trim. I bet she’ll bloom extra-lavishly for you.

    Thanks Sunita. The hellebores have taken over the slope behind the main house. One thing is certain, they do suppress the weeds with that massive foliage. The flowers are nice too. :-)
    Frances

  2. Shama says:

    What a heart-warming tale of a never-say-die hellebore! You and I might age and even develop a permanent squint as a gardening necessity, but not your Big Mamma. She wants to look prim and proper at all times. With good reason too. She is too beautiful for words. Three cheers to Big Mamma!

    Hi Shama and welcome. Thanks for visiting. Squinting is an acquired art, age helps tremendously. Big Mama has been a wonderful propagater and deserves special treatment. She has gone above and beyond expectations. :-)
    Frances

  3. lotusleaf says:

    Lovely Hellebores, Frances! Good that you got up to give Big Mama her beauty treatment.

    Thanks Lotusleaf. They are quite beautiful, I agree. Each flower seems slightly different, with the colors, petal shape and freckles. It is fun to scoot around the hillside, with a cushion, and check out the flowers very closely, with or without the camera. More fun than cutting the leaves. Big Mama does look handsome. :-)
    Frances

  4. Ah, yes, I remember your generous gift of the hellebores at that first spring fling in Austin 2 years ago. Sadly, the hellebore didn’t survive here… not enough shady places. But perhaps one day, I could try again? I hope so!

    I have just two clumps of hellebores, so no big deal to cut the old foliage off, but it is good to know that someday, if I don’t want to, I don’t really have to do it!

    Hi Carol, thanks for letting me know about the baby hellebores. You are welcome to as many more as you want, just let me know when you have the right conditions. We have plenty of extras. But if you have two plants already, I believe you will be seeing your own babies one of these years. Speaking of passalongs, the plant you gave me last year in Chicago is doing well. It has several new leaves that are getting very long, a good sign, right? :-)
    Frances

  5. Randy says:

    Frances,
    At Duke gardens the leaves do not get cut back and they do fine. Those plants must love that hillside!

    Now this is the kind of vindication I love to hear, Randy, thanks!!! If we can stand looking at the old leaves until they become flat and one with the earth, all will be well. It makes the experiment worthwhile. One never knows until they try something new. I do appreciate your letting me know that. :-)
    Frances

  6. Darla says:

    I just admire the Hellebores from afar. I love experiments like this…they seemed to have handled it well. More importantly I do hope you feel better soon.

    Thanks Darla, the experiment was a success. Thanks to Randy for letting me know that leaving the leaves is considered good gardening practice in some places, like the Duke gardens. My health is fine, it is my emotional well being that has been affected more by the weather than is normal. I will be so glad to see the door close on this winter.
    Frances

  7. Joy says:

    Hey there Frances .. I have to say I love it all : ) Now that I have a few to say a small collection I am waiting on pins and needles to see how they do this Spring after tucking them in this past Autumn .. I can’t wait : ) Now that the shady area of the back garden will be increasing I’ll have to spread the “love” over to that spot !
    Great pictures : ) you gotta’ love them !

    Hi Joy, thanks. The very best of luck with your hellebore colony, spread them far and wide when the babies appear. It takes a couple of years for them to reach blooming size, but after that, just stand back and take photos. :-)
    Frances

  8. Les says:

    I have showed great restraint in my Hellebore postings, and have decided if I am going to blog for a while that it would be best to have on/off years in regards to the photos. Maybe you could train one of the grandchildren to become a gardener chore person and throw a few coins their way for compensation, build a work ethic while getting your work done. I always mean to get in the garden right after Christmas to cut back the Hellebores before any signs of new growth, in theory I could take the whole plant down, but I always wait too late and have to do it more carefully. I hope that your recent weather is the last gasp of winter and you are able to move on.

    Hi Les, thanks for those ideas. If the kids lived closer, we would be enlisting them for sure. I am happy to ease out of certain chores that are more physically taxing and not necessary. We have found that dusting is another one that just is a waste of time inside too, LOL. Now please show us your hellebores, lots of times and every year!!! No restraint required. :-)
    Frances

  9. My one hellebore has become three over the years, but not spread much. So I spent Friday digging up all colors of them at a friend’s home and spent the weekend transplanting them to my front, side and backyards! I hope to have blooms in February all over! I haven’t had time to post about my gardens yet this spring, but I have lots of photos! I’m learning from you!

    Hi Jill, thanks for visiting and those kind words. The blogging will wait, while life does not. Those hellebores will quickly become many with that infusion of diverse genetic material, it will be great! And remember, you do NOT have to cut the leaves off, if you can stand not doing so. LOL :-)
    Frances

  10. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    Hi Frances, I hope you are feeling better cutting those leaves back. I had hellebores for years that I didn’t cut back the leaves and they did fine. Your posts about cutting back the leaves are what spurred me to do so. The Big Momma looks quite grand with her trimming. Happy spring to you.

    Thanks so much Lisa. I am fine, really. This winter really got to me for some reason, rather than the up and down of our normal TN season, it was all down with no up. I guess I need those ups, or need to readjust my outlook. Cutting Big Mama was good therapy, and knowing it was only the one plant to cut made it seem much less daunting, as well as a 70 degree day on which to perform the task. I do appreciate your concern. :-)
    Frances

  11. Jenny B says:

    I am a firm believer in “The Squint”. Not only does it work on less-than-perfect gardens, but also mirrors that have a nasty habit of distorting my refection into a tired, grumpy, old version of myself. I also use that same squint, which to the children is known as “The Look” (it is a very versatile squint) to make them behave.

    A lovely story of growing Hellebore populations, the renewal of spring, hope, and family. It has made me want to go out and purchase some of these beauties to make babies of my own. Hang on Frances, Spring is upon us. I had my first Bluebonnet sighting over the weekend!

    Thanks Jenny. I love the many faces of your Squint!!! LOL Ooh, the bluebonnets of Texas. When we lived in the Woodlands, the powers that be had planted drifts of those and other wildflowers in every divider on the streets and along the roadsides. There were always cars pulled over and families taking photos of their kids in the midst of the blue towers. We did it as well and treasure those shots. There is nothing like seeing them growing along the roadways en masse, pure heaven. :-)
    Frances

  12. entangled says:

    Frances, for years I left the tatty hellebore foliage in place thinking that if there was any green in it, it must be doing the plant some good. But then I read your long-ago post and thought maybe I should try cutting it back. I did it half-heartedly, just cutting back the worst-looking leaves. It did make things look tidier. BUT, this year the hellebore foliage was protected from the worst of the winter weather under a blanket of snow for several weeks and the old foliage mostly looks green and happy. I won’t be cutting it back this year ;-)

    Hi Entangled, so nice to see you here, and thanks. How funny about the leaves. I vote for doing as little as you can get away with and still be happy with it. It is a change of course here, sort of like when I am driving and make a lightning quick decision to go somewhere else. Pity the poor person driving along innocently behind me. Same sort of thing with the hellebores. Hang on, direction subject to change! LOL :-)
    Frances

  13. stevesned says:

    Great look at a classic plant. The Hellebore have a wild number of different looks and are way under rated in my opinion, anyway. I particularly like their timing, lol. Early Spring?? Sign me up!

    Thanks Steve. Hellebores belong in every garden where they will grow for that early bloom, large tough leaves and being resistant to critter damage.
    Frances

  14. Darla says:

    Here’s praying winter is closing and basking in the warm glow of the sunshine ball lifts your spirits to extreme heights!

    Thanks Darla, much appreciated. It is snowing at the moment, but is to be nice for the rest of the week.
    Frances

  15. Gail says:

    Leaves on, leaves off…NO matter. Big Mamma and her progeny are beautiful. I don’t recall if I have some starts from Big herself or a later residence of the Fairegarden steep slope, but they are all doing well and all flowering…even in my clay soil and after way too much rain in one season!
    I have added more Royal Heritage and the double Lotus Golden Strain and I am sure others will join the family here on our gentle slope! gail

    Thanks Gail. I do believe you got a shovelful of big’s babies, along with some of the other colors, all flowering you say? Great. That makes my day. :-)
    Frances

  16. I have cut and not cut. The leaves do break down but also provide hiding places for slugs. Your Hellebore faces are lovely and how cooperative of the sun to come out for you. Look at those buds too! Happy Spring Frances! Here is to more energy for us all! ;>) Carol

    Thanks Carol, and the energy wishes are much appreciated. As the blooms progress here, the old leaves are becoming more flat and less noticeable every day. There will be no more cutting, except maybe Big Mama. Hope your spring comes very soon as well. :-)
    Frances

  17. Frances, what a lovely, lovely story of your Hellebores! Mine are about to burst into bloom and I’ve yet to cut the dead foliage away. They are in a position where the snow piles on during the winter, so they look SO pitiful when it melts. I did see that I have babies this spring, but certainly not as many as you! WOW! Now…if you’d like to bring some of those along to Buffalo, I wouldn’t mind if they sort of dropped into my bag… LOL.

    Thanks Kylee. Glad to hear that your hellebores are so far along and that you have babies. We’ll see if the hellebores are in a position to be air lifted in July! :-)
    Frances

  18. LC says:

    It’s such a thrill to see mature hellebores… the majority of mine are only a few years old and I look forward to their gaining stature as the years go on! Larry

    Thanks Larry. It won’t be long before your hellebores become elder statesmen and women. I always think of them as female, maybe it is all the babies. :-)
    Frances

  19. Tatyana says:

    Yes, it is a lovely story! Such gorgeous blooms! For two or three years, I didn’t remove the old leaves on my H. Then, I started to give them a haicut. I don’t see a big difference in a flower production, but of course, the blooms are more visible now. I’ll be curious to see the results of your experiment!

    Thanks Tatyana. That’s the way we started, not cutting in the early years, then cutting, now back to not cutting. It does not affect the flowers at all, especially after they have been open a few more days. The large plants are rising above the old leaves and the new leaves are dipping down to cover the old. I have learned something with this experiment, cutting not necessary except to give the gardener something to do if the weather is mild. When the weather is harsh, like this year, the job can be left undone. :-)
    Frances

  20. The blooms are lovely! I don’t blame you for trying the experiment. I have a few plants that are now “too much of a good thing” when it comes time to cut and divide, but then I’m so happy I have them when they reward me with outstanding bloom performance!

    Thanks Cameron. It was a worthwhile experiment, the lesson was learned that the leaves can be let go if you aren’t up to cutting them, for whatever reason. I have read that hellebores do not like being divided, better to wait for the babies. I don’t know if that works for all types, but orientalis seems to be that way. :-)
    Frances

  21. bloominrs says:

    Those hellebores sure are elegant. I wonder how they do here. That’s funny how Big Mamma holds up her dried leaves to spite you. May you always have the energy to cut back whatever you wish, if you so choose.

    Thank you so much Bloomin, I do appreciate those good wishes. The hellebores seem to grow well in many different climates, but perhaps not the hottest zones. We did not have it in the ground long enough in Texas to find out if it would do well there.
    Frances

  22. Robin says:

    I don’t have a single hellebore but I don’t have much shade at all either. I finally bought hellebore seeds at the Indy garden show on Friday. If they don’t make it in my garden then I haven’t invested very much.
    I wish I lived close enough to take some of those seedlings off of your hands.

    Hi Robin, thanks for visiting. Shade does help, maybe on the north side of your house would be best. As for the seeds, I have read that they need two cycles of heat/cold, two years in the ground before they will germinate. I would mark them well, wherever you put them, then forget about them for a couple of years. :-)
    Frances

  23. My hellebore (yes, just the one!) looks very similar to your first photo. I adore its polka dots. It is growing near the only heather that survives in my garden and I took a photo of it just for you, which will soon be in my blog. I think, however, the heather is squeezing out my hellebore, so I’ll transplant it after it’s bloomed. Hellebores are always expensive. That’s why I just have the one. I really wish it had put out more than one bloom this year, LOL!

    Thanks Monica, I can’t wait to see the shot. My heathers look so terrible right now, more brown than red for Firefly and the others are just plain brown. I don’t know if they are dead or just suffering from shock at the winter we have had. We will wait to see if they spring back to life soon. Hellebores are stupidly expensive to purchase. The seeds take two years to germinate, with two sets of hot/cold to get them going. The plants don’t like to be divided either, no wonder they cost more. If you can just be patient, you will have babies of your own. It takes a long long time, but happens eventually. :-)
    Frances

  24. joey says:

    Your hellebores are stunning, Frances. Though far behind you, I find myself sighing thinking of the many spring garden chores that lie ahead. Sometimes, I just love a rainy day!

    Thanks Joey. Spring does mean chores to be done. I am straining at the bit to get going on many of them, the ones that can be done leisurely sitting on a cushion on a warm day. Unfortunately the cutting of the hellebore leaves, if to be done, needs doing in the coldest part of the year. With no warm spells, it just didn’t happen. But it is okay, I am glad to report. :-)
    Frances

  25. gittan says:

    I just have to tell you, one of the Hellebore seeds have finaly germinated – hurray! That brings hope for the rest /
    Of course it should be Hemerocallis “lol”
    kram gittan

    Oh Gittan, I am so happy, you just don’t know how wonderful that make me!!!! I was wondering about the hellebore seeds, but left that in because it ties in with this post! HA :-)
    Kram,
    Frances

  26. Hello Frances,
    Well, I am with you…keep the old leaves, except for the matriarch – Big Mama. I love low-maintenance gardening with plants that look like you spend hours in the garden even when they require very little :^)

    Thanks Noelle. It seems the comments are revealing that large public gardens do not cut the leaves either. We are in good company. :-)
    Frances

  27. Interesting results, I think I’ll keep my Hellebore cleanup rite of spring. Will you now start deadheading them to prevent babies? I’m more convinced than ever that I need to deadhead them scrupulously. I counted 60 Hellebores in my garden. That’s too many for the space.

    Thanks MMD. Of course you should do whatever gives you pleasure in your own garden. The cutting of the leaves has lost its luster for me, and deadheading would be even more impossible. We will dig out the babies that sprout in inacceptable places, and maybe even resort to the *gasp* hoe. LOL Sixty is a lot for your space. Do what you must do. :-)
    Frances

  28. paddysdaughter says:

    Hellebores are probably my favourite flowers, and they grow like weeds in this climate – cold winters, and temperate summers with good rains. I never remove the old leaves, or deadhead on purpose, they eventually rot away, and it makes no difference to flower production. I have some of them growing near a path, and last year noticed hundreds of seeds on the concrete, so swept them up, threw them all in a big low pot..and they have all germinated. Now I have to find spots to plant them out, as well as give them to away.

    That is wonderful, that the hellebores love it in your garden, Susan. Not cutting the leaves is the new paradigm here as well. It seems the extras are always well received by friends and family. :-)
    Frances

  29. For the first time my hellebores are producing lots of babies. I have a couple acres of woodlands. This year I was excited to transplant them, but I wonder how many years before I have enough.

    Two acres is a great space, Deborah, and it would take a while to fill that with hellebores even at the rate they are reproducing here. How lovely that will be, a sea of hellebores. :-)
    Frances

  30. Anna says:

    An interesting post Frances and a salutary reminder that although leaf trimming might be desirable, it is not an essential – after all it is not in mother nature’s vocabulary. As for your theory of squinting – great advice :)

    Thanks Anna. It is a constant education, being a gardener. We have made the switch from cutting to not cutting, a step in the right direction. The fine art of squinting is worth practicing. :-)
    Frances

  31. Meredith says:

    Big Mama is stunning, and deserving of her special grooming as befits this “mother of millions.” I so much enjoyed your tale of the progression of hellebores in your life and your landscape, Frances. It might make you smile to hear that our local botanical gardens do *not* cut off the old foliage of their hellebores, either, and their slopes of bloom still looked so lovely to my winter-weary eyes, lifting my spirits all these weeks now. :)

    Thanks Meredith. It does indeed bring a smile to learn that public gardens, run by people who know what they are doing, as opposed to me who only pretends to know anything at all, do not cut. It takes away the doubt of the decision not to cut. The hellebores are giving winter weary eyes a boost here as well, old leaves and all. :-)
    Frances

  32. Sweet Bay says:

    I’m in the middle of spring clean-up and I see I’m in good company. :) I have one Hellebore, a seedling received in a trade, and if it ever gets a haircut it’ll be in spring. Big Mama has produced a beautiful array of seedlings in your garden. I have not ordered from White Flower Farm before, but did get a catalong one year — it was so beautiful that I decided to keep it for reference.

    Hi Sweet Bay, thanks. I sometimes keep the WFF catalogs too, they have some amazing combinations for containers that are worth copying. Hang in there with your hellebore, one of these years it too can become a Big Mama. :-)
    Frances

  33. tina says:

    They sure are lovely with the leaves on or off. I don’t blame you for not wanting to cut them down with all the multiplying they do. Too much work! And I for one am tired of all the work=it must be spring.

    Thanks Tina. Not cutting the leaves has proven to be the right thing for me. It sounds like we are both in the same frame of mind about more work. :-)
    Frances

  34. I have a few years before I need to worry much about cutting the old leaves off in the spring. My hellebores are all still your babies, growing quite well mind you. I potted up a full tray and wintered it in the mulch pile. When the snow melted a check of them looked good. I like to grow them out to a bit bigger size before planting them in the wild cultivated garden. Things can get lost out there. With your help Bulbarella and I are adding hellebore to the mountain. Cleaning them at Client #1′s revealed a huge cache of babies if we want to go crazy for hellebores.

    Thanks for letting me know their status, Christopher. I am glad they are surviving the conditions there on the mountain. Once those are settled in and blooming, you will never want for hellebores again. The Client babies are a bonus. Your shady spots will be perfect for them.
    Frances

  35. Catherine says:

    I had left the old leaves on for the first few years, then started cutting them back after awhile. This year while cutting the leaves back I couldn’t believe how long it took me just to do the ones in the front. Every year I find more seedlings to move around the yard. I love all the different colors that have come from the original plants.

    Thanks for your support, Catherine. Now imagine cutting those leaves while standing on a steep slope and you will understand my hesitance to continue with that task. The seedlings are so fun, seeing what color and form will come from them is like Christmas and birthdays all rolled into one. :-)
    Frances

  36. Grace says:

    Pretty impressive, Frances. Hellebores hold such an allure don’t they? Here I am with my measly single ten year old plant that has never set seed…. Oh well. Beautiful photos.

    Thanks Grace. Is your one an orientalis? I have noticed that Blue Lady and Ivory Prince do not form seed pods. Maybe some of the named ones are sterile?
    Frances

  37. Marsha (MarshasGardenBlog) says:

    I just adore my garden Hellebores that I purchased in the spring of ’06. They have gone to seed, and every year since ’07 I have been trying to get them to germinate without luck. After reading your post today, I quick ran out to see if there were possibly any babies, and I think that I may have a few. Considering that I have added a couple more Hellebores since then, I am now quite excited for spring 2012 when there should be a ton of babies from all the seeds from these plants! Thanks for sharing your experience with us all – those potential babies really made my day that much brighter on this overcast, cool, rainy, I should nap all day kind of day…

    Hi Marsha, thanks and welcome. I am so glad to hear you have some babies, it does take a little patience. But once they start showing up, it will be an avalance from year to year. I remember how I felt when first discovering those little ones, it is like a ray of sunshine right into your soul. :-)
    Frances

  38. Jen says:

    So beautiful. I seem to be the only person who can’t grow a Hellebore. At least I think the one I planted last year is not coming back. The old dead leaves are still there, so maybe I should try cutting back? I also have very dense clay soil – wonder if that’s a factor since you said yours are in sandy soil (but you did add clay….) I’m not giving up on it quite yet. At least after seeing yours I have something to strive for!

    Don’t give up, Jen! The sandy soil was in our Texas garden, not here in Tennessee where you could build a house out of the clay, carved right out of the ground, it is so dense. Check the center of your plant, there should be folded up leaves and maybe a flower bud, give it more time if not. These plants are quite tough.
    Frances

  39. easygardener says:

    I cut the leaves off so I can see the flowers better – but it is back breaking and I only have a few plants. If I had a lot of plants I would not bother.
    I once read that it was traditionally done to prevent the spread of the fungal disease Blackspot which can overwinter on old leaves and then infect the new flowers. I don’t know if new hybrids suffer in the same way.

    Thanks for that info, EG. There are just too many plants here, and all on a steep slope, to cut them back anymore. Many of the tasks performed in the garden, well nearly all of them anymore, cause back pain. Eliminating as many as possible is the goal. Adjusting plantings and just letting things be is the method. I don’t know about blackspot here, but the old leaves look awful by winter’s end. Our hill still gets quite a bit of sun and the drainage is excellent, maybe that helps with the fungal problems.
    Frances

  40. Kathleen says:

    Dang ~ I knew I should have attended the Austin Garden Bloggers gathering! Would have loved a baby hellebore from your garden dear Frances. That was mighty generous of you.

    I read and then re-read parts of this post since I am a new hellebore “owner” ~ I ordered two doubles last year (after seeing them on everyone’s blogs) from Heronswood then bought two more from my local nursery. They are all quite tiny. I am getting a few blooms right now from ‘Blue & Pink Lady’ but am sad to read that they don’t form seed pods. So no new little hellebores for me???? Another case it point that it pays to know what you’re doing! Interesting as always Frances.

    Thanks Kathleen. I don’t know if the doubles will form seeds or not, but have seen seeds offered for doubles so maybe they will. You must be patient, it takes years to see them under the old leaves. In the meantime, if you see an unnamed specimen for sale, grab it! :-)
    Frances

  41. kerri says:

    I’m smitten with your hellebores, Frances. Ah, to have just a few like Big Mama and her offspring!
    I have two I’m still waiting on, but they’ve only been out from under their snow cover for a short time. I must have patience….like the song :) (You were absolutle right about the skin-tight red hot pants..ugh! What were they thinking? a fashion fiasco for sure :))
    One of my hellebores is like Jen’s…just dead leaves at first and no sign of life, but experience has taught me that it will appear eventually. I haven’t seen it bloom yet and still don’t know what color it is, or even the cultivar. The label just said “Hellebore – mixed”. My patience is wearing thin! But this could be the year I’ll find out. You never know :)
    Happy spring, Frances!

    Thanks Kerri. If you have hellebores, someday they will become Big Mamas for you, I hope. HA to the red hot pants, it haunts me still. But Patience lifts my spirits so I guess it is the yin and the yang. Happy Spring to you. :-)
    Frances

  42. Such beautiful hellebores, and so generous with their seedlings. How long does it take the seedlings to flower?

    Thanks Happy. I would say at least three years for the babies to reach flowering size. Once they do flower, it might only be one, they really take off and will be covered in blooms, and make babies, in another year or two. Patience. :-)
    Frances

  43. wow… i just noticed all the babies! how cool…

    Thanks DG. Seeing the babies for the first time is quite exciting, like winning the lottery! :-)
    Frances

  44. Teresa says:

    Kind of a fun experiment. They look healthy and ready to go to spite the lack of leaf cutting. Happy Spring! I enjoyed reading your post.

    Thanks Teresa. I like experiments that required NOT doing something, HA. A very happy spring to you as well. :-)
    Frances

  45. Lola says:

    Oh Ms Frances, that white stuff graced Fairegarden again. Mother nature must have something up her sleeve for her to dump that white stuff around.
    The big mama sure looks good. Hair cut or not.
    I sure wouldn’t mind having some here to brighten up my garden. Will have to check it out to see if they will be happy here.
    Seems as though some things I’ve brought back from other places have done well here. Even trees. As the old saying “I must have held my mouth right”. lol
    This has been one of those times that things need doing but the inclination sure is short.
    Maybe one day. I don’t get in any hurry anymore.

    Yes, Lola, we did get that stinkin’ snow this week. But it warmed up nicely the next day when the sun came out, thank goodness! That saying about holding your mouth right applies to our gardening philosophy as well. Also, someone forget to tell the plants that they weren’t supposed to live in these conditions. :-)
    Frances

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