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.