Our Hellebore Festival

greenhouse-frog.jpgThe Helleborus Festivalis starts at Detroit Garden Works at 9am tomorrow-sharp.  What has taken months to put together is just about ready for the curtain to rise.  Rob has done his usual incredible job, sourcing interesting hellebore cultivars of size and in bloom for our gardening clientele.  The resident greenhouse frog approves of our case of baby tears.  All of us feel, given his appearance, that our festival will be a good one.  We had David and Mary Moore in today, owners of Stone Cottage Gardens in Gladwin Michigan.  We had a young man in the area on a business trip choosing hellebores for his gardener girlfriend. He made this older gardener happy.  Young gardeners, older gardeners-I welcome all of them.  As for avid collectors of hellebores, we will ship when the weather moderates, to Rochester Minnesota, Cleveland, Ohio, and Flint Michigan.  I like this.

helleborus-festivalis.jpgWe have lots of companion plants to the hellebores.  Honeysuckle boxwood.  Euonymus and myrtle topiaries.  Silver pilea.  baby tears.  Hyacinths throwing bloom stalks.  Every plant Rob chose is a celebration of the spring.  A celebration of green.  This first day of spring, we are ready for the chance to garden again.  And ready for those other gardeners that grace our doors.  Conversation about the garden over a boatload of well grown hellebores-a pleasure for everyone.

spring-containers.jpgMy garden at home still has lots of snow.  But I can see the signs of spring.  I hear the birds in the morning.  The evergreens in my garden are emerald green, not that black shade of winter green.  I put away my winter coat-I was so tired of it.  We had sun today.  The ice is melting.  The hellebores in my garden are still under 3 feet of snow.  Not my first choice of a garden situation.  In the greenhouse at Detroit Garden Works, there is a different situation.  Spring on our schedule. Though we know we have little influence over the state of the garden, we can create a spring of our own.

spring-container-planting.jpgIt was pure serendipity, deciding to do a March festival especially in honor of the hellebore.  Both Rob and I are big fans of this particular perennial.  The flowers of cultivars of Helleborus Orientalis – the Lenten Rose – are showstopping.  The plants are vigorous, meaning they show up every spring without any handholding.  The petals cure and hold on for 6 weeks or better.  They seed generously.  The foliage is almost evergreen.  What’s not to love?  An event given over to the spring flowering hellebores made us plant lots of spring flowering containers.  This box of cyclamen, grape hyacinths and white bellis is a sure sign of what is to come.  Spring-what could possibly be better?

Detroit-Garden-Works.jpgWe had no idea the winter would go on so long.  As in, we still have winter here.  Our spring hellebore celebration has a special meaning we never anticipated.  Though nature has been amazingly uncooperative in making a change of seasons, our idea is to bring a celebration of spring of our own to bear.  Gardeners make the garden.  We hear their voices.  If you are in our area, pay us a visit.  We promise you will not be disappointed.   Hellebores make great container plants that can tolerate being house bound until the garden is ready to be worked.

hellebores-in-the-greenhouse.jpgOur small greenhouse is stuffed with decent numbers of 28 cultivars of helleborus orientalis.  Rob added pots of double primroses to the mix.  These prikmroses are hardy to 30 below zero.  Given our past winter, that root hardiness rating may be appealing.  We have pots of primula obconica. There is more-auricula primroses just coming in to bloom..  Honeysuckle boxwood on standard.  Bellis in bloom. Hyacinths and daffodils in pots.  A celebration of spring in spite of a winter that will not let go.

spring-festival.jpgHow spring starved we all are makes all of Rob’s choices that much more to treasure.  I have dirt and moss stains on my hands-how great is that?  I have been planting spring pots.  What a relief-what a treasure.

spring-2014.jpgIf you garden in our area, I would suggest that our helleborus festivalis might be just the jumpstart of spring that will bring a smile to your gardening heart.

double-primrose.jpgdouble primrose

spring-flowering-branches.jpgforced forsythia and cherry branches

pots-of-hyacinths.jpgpotted hyacinths

myrtle-topiaries.jpgmyrtle topiaries and white hyacinths

potted-hellebore.jpga hellebore in a pot with curly pussy willow

spring-container-planting.jpgA spring container planting with hellebores.  We are ready.  We would guess you are too.

Helleborus Festivalis

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Detroit Garden Works plans to hold its first ever spring festival the weekend of March 21, 22, and 23.   We are calling the event the Helleborus Festivalis, in celebration of one of our most favorite spring flowering perennials, the hellebore.  Rob has spent weeks traveling to and ordering from nurseries all over the US and Canada, in order for us to have a collection available that will enchant both gardeners unfamiliar with hellebores, and long time serious collectors.  I have had lots of emails requesting more information on exactly what plants we have available, and in what sizes.  This post is some about our love for hellebores, and more about the specifics.  600 hellebores have been delivered over the past 2 weeks-to follow is a the Helleborus Festivalis preview.  Helleborus Onyx Odyssey, pictured above, is certainly one of the most striking varieties we have been able to obtain.

Helleborus-Black-Odyssey.jpgThis very dark and inky wine red double hellebore was bred by Marietta O’Byrne in Eugene, Oregon, and and introduced into commerce in 2008.  We have 20 in bloom 1 gallon size stocky plants available.  This cultivar is most definitely not the helleborus orientalis my Mom grew.  The O’Byrne’s breeding program has turned over the hellebore world.

helleborus-orientalis-hybrids.jpgOther 1 gallon size hellebores, pictured above from left to right, helleborus Spring Promise Conny, which features white blooms with distinctive dark wine red speckles.  Also pictured,  Spring Promise Elly, a double rose pink, the heavy flowering single flowering Merlin, and Spring Promise Bridget, a frilly single pink.  As with helleborus Onyx Odyssey, these hellebores are all blooming.  Have the idea to scout what cultivars you might want to grow or add to your collection?  We have other hellebores in bloom.  Mahogany Snow.  Icebreaker Fancy.  Icebreaker Prelude.  Our Icebreaker Corsica is already sold out-sorry.

helleborus-Snow-Frills.jpgSnow Frills is a semi double to double pure white.  Breaktakingly beautiful, the flowers of this hellebore.  This sturdy plant comes in an 8″ pot with multiple blooms, as pictured.  Snow Frills is that new cultivar of hellebore which features outfacing or upfacing flowers.  If you like white flowers in the spring, this cultivar may interest you.

one-gallon-hellebores.jpgBoth Snow Frills and Merlin are substantial blooming plants in 8 inch pots.  Merlin is a single blush pink, and clearly a heavy bloomer.

Helleborus-Spring-Promise-Elly.jpgThis picture is a closeup of the bloom of the Spring Promise cultivar known as Elly. The double flowers are astonishing in color and form .  We have a limited number of 1 gallon blooming plants available.

spring-promise-hellebores.jpgWe have a select group pf 4.5 inch pots of hellebores ready.  Though these are smaller plants, many of them are blooming.

helleborus winter-jewel-Golden-Lotus.jpgGolden Lotus is a strain of double flowered yellow hellebores exhibiting subtly different characteristics.  Though every plant is distinctly individual, every member of this seed strain group is stellar. All of our 4.5 inch plants are blooming.

helleborus-Black-Diamond.jpgBlack Diamond is just that-jet black.  None of these 4.5 inch plants are in bloom.  If you have a mind to have faith in a long history of breeding and a plant not in flower, we have healthy lustily growing plants available.

perennial_m_Helleborus x hybridus Winter Jewel Cherry BlossomWe have  four flats of 4.5 inch helleborus Winter Jewel Cherry Blossom available for purchase.  Only one plant has a flower. This cultivar is a must have, in my opinion.  Most nurseries offer just a few cultivars for sale, in their green state.  This makes them easy to miss.  Hellebores grow slowly.  Few cultivars grow on to blooming size in one season.  If you are a gardener willing to take chances, sign up for a Cherry Blossom.  Next spring, the anemone flowered blooms will enchant you.

helleborus-festivalis.jpgIn this picture, Spring Promise Bridget is sharing the stage with flats of English daisies.  We do have a number of other spring flowering perennials in stock as companions to our hellebores.  Bellis, double flowering primroses, and several cultivars of auricula primroses are available along with dwarf daffodils and hyacinths.

helleborus-Pink-Frost.jpgWe do have some 2 gallon pots of hellebores available.  Joseph Lemper is a white hellebore blooming very early in the spring.  The Pink Frost Hellebore pictured above- big plants.

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This Winter Jewels Golden Sunrise-we have this plant in one gallon size.  Though our plants are not flowering, the promise of what is to come is clear.  We also have good sized divisions of the pale yellow hellebore, Spring Promise “Sally”.

helleborus-festivalis.jpgThis has been a very long and very trying winter.  Detroit Garden Works has the idea to jump start spring. Helleborus Festivalis-a week from tomorrow. With a collection of hellebores and accompanying plants that are eminently garden worthy.  If you are a collector, or a gardener willing to gamble, we have a few divisions of rarer hellebores available.  White Lady, Frilly Kitty, Tiffany, Valerie, WD Elegance White, WD Pale Pink, Winter Jewel Sparkling Diamond, Winter Jewel Double Painted, Winter Jewel Jade Tiger, Winter Thriller Green Gambler-email me for details. We are ready for spring-what about you?

At A Glance: What’s Growing On

pot-of-crocus.jpgpot of crocus

hyacinths-and-muscari.jpghyacinths and muscari

spring-pots.jpghellebore

cyclamen.jpgcyclamen

helleborus-orientalis.jpggreen hellebore

potted-bulbs.jpgpotted hyacinths

yellow-hellebore.jpgyellow hellebore

purple-crocus.jpgcrocus opening

spotted-hellebore.jpg
spotted hellebore

Culture

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Don’t let the title of this post make you think I am all in and over my head. I have no plan to discuss culture, as in the cumulative arts and intellectual achievement of a neighborhood or nation or region or era.  I would be over my head.  I am interested in culture as the process of making something grow.  Scientists are able to culture bacteria in a petrie dish, loaded with whatever medium known to make bacteria thrive.  Knowing what it takes to make bacteria multiply may help to discover what might starve them off.  Cultivation is an agricultural term dating back centuries.  Farmers do what they can to provide optimal growing conditions for the seeds of any plant they wish to grow.  Gardeners cultivate plants in their garden.  Any plant you choose to grow the idea implies a willingness to provide optimal conditions.

potting-hellebores.jpgThe plant of my current moment is helleborus orientalis, and its hybrids.  A cultivar is a shortened version referring to cultivated varieties.  Some hybrids of hellebores have poor foliage, or are shy bloomers. Others are not especially hardy, or the flowers may be buried in the foliage.  Some cultivars have muddy colors, or poor form.  Others have no inclination to grow.  Plant breeders are an individual lot.  They have a very personal and usually very long range plan to breed cultivars that grow vigorously, bloom profusely, are hardy and disease resistant.  Every breeder has a different idea of what constitutes the holy grail.

spring-pots.jpgHelleborus orientalis and its related hybrids or cultivars thrive in light to medium shade, in well draining compost rich soil that has a source of regular moisture.  My hellebores are planted in full sun, but I am careful to provide additional water during dry spells.  I do not fuss over them much.  If you cultivate hellebores in conditions that approximate their ideal siting, they will probably do well.  The not fussing has a deeper meaning.  Plants that appreciate and thrive in compost rich soil implies they like places where the falling leaves are allowed to rot.  Those places not subject to an inordinate amount of cleanup.

potted-hellebores.jpgI do not cultivate the soil around my hellebores.  If a hellebore is inclined to seed, it will do so with abandon.  Scraping the surface in anticipation of weeds might well eliminate any seeding..  Turning the soil may turn under all the germinated babies.  Even hybrids of helleborus orientalis resent too much attention.  Most plants come equipped with an incredible will to live, standard issue.  I cultivate my landscape with as light a hand as I can manage.  I try not to interfere too much, unless there is a genuine call to action.

spring-blooming-hellebores.jpgIf you would like to grow hellebores, chances are you have a spot.  As beautiful as they are, they are not so fussy.  Deep shade means you will have fewer flowers.  Deep and dry sandy shade-they don’t love this so much. Maybe another species of hellebore would be better, if this describes your conditions. A quiet spot in compost laden spongy soil in light shade-just about perfect.  I try to site my plants in locations that I believe will encourage them to grow and prosper. This is plant culture.

helleborus-orientalis.jpgAs for the hellebores in the greenhouse now at Detroit Garden Works, we keep the space cool.  We run our greenhouse fans non stop. Good air circulation is a good idea for perennial plants being cultivated indoors. We don’t water these leathery leaved plants until they really need it.

growingt-hellebores.jpgThe requirements for the successful cultivation of hellebores in the garden don’t so much apply to growing them in pots.  They make a great centerpiece for a spring container for a sunny window.  Rob has been potting them up all day today.  He has chosen to pair these blooming cultivars with cut stems of curly pussy willow, and a top dressing of natural moss.

pussy-willow.jpgThe hellebores in the ground in my garden are buried under 5 feet of snow-this is today’s news.  I cannot begin to predict how my hellebore garden will do or not do this spring. This has been a winter with which I have no familiarity or experience. In the meantime, am enjoying potting up hellebores in a way I believe will hold them just fine until I can work the soil in my garden.  Rob has paired his hellebore pots with fresh cut shoots of curly pussy willow. He is cultivating spring, as only he can.

hellebores-in-bloom.jpgClose by?  Stop in.