That is the question. Whether ’tis nobler…okay, enough already. But it has been a dilemma here at the Fairegarden each year since the original few Hellebores have become hundreds if not thousands.
In the beginning the cutting of the old leathery fronds was a ritual of late January, something anticipated with delightful enthusiasm. Cutting off the ratty tatty would expose fresh new leaves unfolding and the promise of flowers in the swollen buds.
Never deadheaded, seed pods would form, scattering their precious innards and two years later the offspring began to appear. Lots of them. The gardener was thrilled to see the little babies, free plants are always cause for joy from those afflicted with tightwaddedness. The babies were planted into other beds over the course of time, growing into flowering sized beings. Those babies begat their own babies and so on and so on. All good, right?
In 2010 the striving towards the lowest level of gardening maintenance hatched the idea to experiment by leaving heretofore performed tasks undone. There were discoveries of what could and what could or should not be on the yearly to do listing. The Hellebores remained uncut. The result was less than satisfactory, it was downright unacceptable.
On a recent warm day, well above the normal upper level temperature swings of the roller coaster Southeast Tennessee zone 7a winter, the tools were grabbed and the large receptacle hauled up the slope to begin. There was a window of opportunity of about an hour or so to get the leaves cut off, cleaned up and composted before a horrendous downpour, possible thunderstorm, possible ice storm, possible snow storm was to reach us.
In past years, the tool used to cut was the Felco pruners #8 for small hands. I also have #9 for left hands. Why they do not make a small left handed version is a mystery. I would gladly pay extra for such a tool. It was felt that each leaf needed to be cut individually so as not to cut the precious flower buds off. Of course some buds were always cut accidentally anyway. This year, the cutting was attacked with the Fiskars hedge trimmers. Nice and sharp, a whole plant could be cleaned up at one go, being somewhat careful of the buds. Using the hedge trimmers allowed the entire collection of hellebores on the slopes, the ferngully shade area, the top of the daylily hill and the garage side to be shorn and tidied in less than an hour.
No other tasks were on the list, the energy of the morning coffee still sizzled in our veins and digestive tract. We whizzed through the cutting in record time with no backaches nor wrist throbbings afterwards. So dear and gentle readers, the cutting of the hellebores has been reinstated to the chore list. And a great big happy Check to that!