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.

Sunday Opinion: A New Season

Even though our winter has a grip on my landscape I can barely comprehend, I am thinking about how it feels to be poised on the cusp of a spring season.  Every season has its memorably quiet or triumphant moments, and its disasters. I remember a bygone season in lots of ways.  Who came when, and for what reason.  People I meet, over dinner in the garden.  The storm the likes of which I had never seen before.  Something in the garden I had never noticed before.  Some things that go unnoticed for a while are treasures-others are unexpected setbacks.  A plant new to me opens a whole new line of thinking.  A material I never paid much attention to suddenly becomes a material of choice. A new client brings something new to the design process.  Something I read changes my mind about a whole host of previously held ideas.  Other ideas I am reluctant to give up are verified by a gardener I respect.  Something I see working gives me confidence.  Things I see not working feel like a test for which I am ill prepared.  Some great days feel like they will keep on glowing, and never end.  Some bad days seem like they will never end, period.

But the gardening season does end.  Nature has the idea to let every gardener down slowly.  Summer comes to a close, almost imperceptibly.  The trees and woody shrubs begin to go dormant in August.  The fall is a season just as long as all the other seasons.  It is a good time to plant, or transplant.  In a generously long fall, the slowing down is a long sigh lasting throughout November.  Many gardeners are most active in their gardens in the fall.  It is easy to haul compost or stone when the weather is cooler.  It is easier on any plant to be transplanted when the weather is cooler, and the rain more regular.  Our fall color is sometimes more brilliant than anything the summer garden has to offer.

Once the winter comes, there is time to reflect on the season past.  My containers did not make me so happy last season.  I was more than ready to let them go.  And very appreciative that I would have a chance to do them differently, the next time around.  This time.  Though the winter can be depressing and seem endless in Michigan, I appreciate that there comes that day when the gardening stops.  Having time to rest and reflect is a time I need.  Having the time to review, and plan anew is an opportunity I treasure.  I like reading catalogue descriptions of tomatoes, and climbing plants.  Reading about the garden and garden design is just as important to me as gardening.

I know spring is on the way.  I know it will be as fine as a new coat of paint. I know it will be disappointing in ways I cannot yet imagine.  I have bridges to cross that I have not yet begun to build.    But no matter what nature has in mind, I am excited for the new season.  A new project at home-I am thinking through several possibilities.  A new design project gets the old blood moving like nothing else.  Detroit Garden Works has a look and focus it has never had before.  New, for the new season.  The Branch Studio has some fountains close to a finish the likes of which we have never done before.  That’s what a new season is all about.  A fresh start.

A second chance, a chance at a fresh start, is nature’s most extraordinary gift.  I personally plan to take her up on that offer.  I can leave behind what I should leave behind. I can make changes-for the better.  I can confidently stand pat, if I so choose.  The opportunity to choose is indeed a precious opportunity.  I would say that gardeners I know anticipate whatever the spring has to dish out.  The joy that is the garden waking up trumps all the dishing.  Gardeners are hard digging people more than ready for the chance to go around again.  Count me in.

Helleborus Festivalis

perennial_m_helleborus_x_hybridus_winter_jewel_onyx_odyssey1

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.

perennial_m_helleborus x hybridus winter jewel golden sunrise9

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?

Going For The Record

March-2014.jupgReally?  I didn’t really believe the forecast for 8 inches of fresh snow and 40 mile an hour winds, but that forecast proved dead to right.  The snow started about 7am, and never let up until the afternoon.  Long about 11:30 we were experiencing blizzard conditions.  Then the wind.  Howling winds, for Pete’s sake.  If you live in a northern gardening zone, I am sure this sounds like more of the same.  More of the same winter weather to my mind is just about intolerable, considering this is mid March.

March 12 2014 (8)We had 400 hellebores enroute from the west coast yesterday.  The trucker called an hour after his 8am ETA, to say he was having mechanical problems-he would be late.  Late meant that he and Rob were unloading the truck at 9pm last night.  Neither one of them wanted any part of unloading a truck today.  Though it took until 11:30 pm to get the plants safely stowed away in our greenhouse, we had three more deliveries today-all three at the height of the commotion.  Rob just rolled his eyes at me, as he and Steve were on their way outside for delivery number three.

March 12 2014 (15)The UPS truck in our drive summoned another UPS truck.  A boatload of packages were transferred from one truck to the other. What was up with that-I did not ask. This winter has tried each and every one of us.  I could not imagine being in the delivery business this winter. The weather was the top topic of conversation today.  Detroit is but a few inches short of a record snowfall that has prevailed since 1883.  As long as metro Detroit gardeners have suffered the misery of a vile winter that has gone on much too long, why not go for the gold?  Living through the most vile winter in over 100 years sounds better than a dispirited discussion of more of the same.

March 12 2014 (16)I haven’t been able to much walk my garden in months.  The rose garden has been buried in deep snow.  The staircase up is a snow ramp.  The corgis have been confined to the deck.  Did I mention that it is perilously icy everywhere? These pictures are from the inside looking out the windows.  Looking out from the inside has been a way of life for longer than I would like.

March 12 2014 (27)I do have questions, as this is a winter of a length and a breadth that I have never experienced before.  What will happen with my crocus?  Will they stay below ground until all of the snow is melted and the ground unfrozen?  Will they come up late, and bloom as usual, but late?  Will they pass on making an appearance this year altogether?  Once the winter is by, will they emerge bloom and flop over in one day?  Will the forsythias and magnolias bloom?

March 12 2014 (25)Will my shrub roses have die back from the extreme cold?  Will their blooming season be delayed?  Will the June garden be all the poorer for our extremely cold winter and deep snow?  The garden rarely provides answers in advance.  There will be a garden this spring, the shape of which I cannot predict.

March 12a 2014 (5)I am still interested in the fact that we gardeners in this zone have not experienced a winter with this level of extreme cold and extreme snow in 130 years.  This could mean that weather patterns are much bigger and longer than a human life.  As I have always suspected, nature is at the center of life.  People experience a piece, a chunk, a part – maybe just the second act of a much bigger play featuring five acts.  Maybe the past 20 years in which I have been cultivating my garden happened during an intermission.

March 12a 2014 (7)Late in the day, the storm passed, and the sun came out. The winds moved on.  The clear sky and the still were remarkably beautiful.

March 12 2014 (36)Nature?  It is a cornerstone of my life, no matter what.  There are no promises.  Sometimes the outcomes are not happy. Most times the outcomes are unexpected.  Sometimes the outcomes are deliriously enchanting.  Sometimes the outcomes are dreary and unclear.  Am I along for the ride?  Sure thing.