Welcome to the Gardening Column with Paul Andruss… deft of word and an expert in the plant department, he is sharing bringing glorious colour to our gardens.
Hellebores (Yours Magazine)
Despite flowering early in the year, when there is hardly anything in the garden, hellebores were often ignored. They were considered dull and rather bashfully hung their heads. So much so some gardeners put mirrors under the plants so they could see the flowers.
Hellebores came in two types. There was a white variety (ironically Black Hellebore) optimistically called the Christmas Rose, which never flowers at Christmas, and a pink called the Lenten Rose; blooming from Lent through Spring. In actual fact both varieties bloom during much the same time.
Hellebores are not roses, but part of the buttercup family. The name is because the flowers are a similar shape to dog roses. Flowers are made from tough coloured bud-coatings, called sepals, not flimsy petals. This means they flower for weeks rather than days and can stand anything winter throws at them. I have seen Hellebores frozen to the ground perk up once the weather thaws and look none the worse for wear. Hellebores survive in temperatures low as -26 C (-15F).
Hel, a Norse Death Goddess and daughter of Loki the mischievous wild-fire god, appropriately lived in a frozen realm named after her. Unfortunately she does not lend her name to Hellebores.
The name originates with the Ancient Greeks and means Helle (to injure) and Bora (food) as many species are poisonous. In one Greek legend, attackers used hellebores to poison the water supply of a besieged city; leaving the defenders so weak from diarrhoea they no longer had the strength to man the walls.
Any gardening column will sooner or later talk about poisonous plants: something that will no doubt cheer up all you Jane Marples, or perhaps, more macabrely, Lucrecia Borgias. Unfortunately this is not that column. Not today. But here’s something to be going on with:
The shade loving aconite (Monkshood) with its spikes of blue bells is called the witch flower and queen of poisons. The plant, sacred to the witch goddess Hecate, is poisonous in all its parts: stem leaves and root.
It is also called wolf’s bane as the ancient Greeks dipped their wolf hunting arrows in a toxin made from it. Symptoms of aconite poisoning are supposed to resemble rabies: frothing at the mouth and impaired vision leading to coma. Legend has it Wolf’s bane is a cure for werewolves. Hence the poem in the 1941 Universal film The Wolfman: Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolf-bane blooms and the autumn moon is bright
Deadly Nightshade (botanakaiygeia.blogspot)
Another is Belladonna, which comes from the deadly nightshade family that gives us eggplants, tomatoes, potatoes, chili and capsicums. It was called belladonna because in medieval times women used a potion made from its sap to paralyse the pupils, leaving their eyes dilated: a biological sign of sexual arousal.
But enough of sex and murder, let’s get back to Hellebores, shall we?
Over the past decade, breeders have introduced plants with perky upright flowers, fringed, speckled and doubles in a variety of colours ranging from a maroon so deep it appears black to sunshine yellow.
New Variety Hellebores (Savvy Gardening)
As with any new varieties, especially ones that involve a 5 year-long investment from a grower, they are expensive. They can be up over £15, probably translating to about $25 for a reasonable size plant.
I would never pay top dollar buy a hellebore unless it is in flower. I have seen plants bearing no relation to the picture on the label. An alternative is to spend a quarter of the price for smaller plants and be patient. I bought small plants and 3 years later they have filled the pots.
Be warned Hellebore might not look reasonably sized when you buy them in early spring because most of the plant is underground in the pot. What counts is a large healthy root.
Hellebores flower before they get new leaves. Established plants will still have old leaves when they flower. Many gardeners cut back the old leaves, which are looking quite manky, to be frank, to expose the coming flowers. It does no damage to the plant, which will leaf up in late spring.
Hellebores are trouble free. Partial-shade lovers, they do best sheltered from the summer sun. I grow mine in pots; moving them to the back of the garden in summer.
Hellebores are promiscuous, producing seed of different colours. They are easy to grow from seed, but the vast majority of new plants are muddy colours. This is why they are expensive. Growers need to cultivate hundreds of seedlings to flowering size, keeping the best, discarding the rest, then propagating the specular ones through root cuttings.
As you know I am economical gardener. Let’s face it I’m as a tight as a duck’s arse… and that’s water- tight! Now is a great time to buy hellebores from the cheap-seats in the garden centre: better than half-price. If you can, pick those with faded flowers to confirm the colour. Otherwise take pot luck, they might not be exact but then you might not be as fussy as me.
If you want a robust exotic looking summer plant for a semi-shaded place in the garden I recommend Corsican and Stinking Hellebores – it don’t stink!) These sub-shrubs have exotic deeply cut foliage, although their towers of green bell like flowers are not unattractive, if unsecular. They will get winter damage and even die back to the ground but they do return!
Corsican Hellebore (Gardinesta)
Sorry meant to write gardening!
©Paul Andruss 2018
Thank you again to the Paul for sharing his expertise in relation to plants and in this case the murderous history of the Hellebores…. perfect for thriller and murder writers..
About Paul Andruss.
Paul Andruss is a writer whose primary focus is to take a subject, research every element thoroughly and then bring the pieces back together in a unique and thought provoking way. His desire to understand the origins of man, history, religion, politics and the minds of legends who rocked the world is inspiring. He does not hesitate to question, refute or make you rethink your own belief system and his work is always interesting and entertaining. Whilst is reluctant to talk about his own achievements he offers a warm and generous support and friendship to those he comes into contact with.
Paul Andruss is the author of 2 contrasting fantasy novels
When Fairy Queen Sylvie snatches his brother, schoolboy Jack is plunged into a sinister fantasy world of illusion and deception – the realm of telepathic fairies ruled by spoilt, arrogant fairy queens.
Haunted by nightmares about his brother and pursued by a mysterious tramp (only seen by Jack and his friends) Jack fears he too will be stolen away.
The tramp is Thomas the Rhymer, who only speaks in rhyme. Lost and frightened Thomas needs Jack’s help to find his way home.
The race is on for Jack and his friends to save Thomas from the wicked Agnes Day (who wants to treat Thomas like a lab rat). And save Jack’s brother from Sylvie.
To do this they need the help of Bess – the most ancient powerful fairy queen in the land.
But there is a problem…
No one knows where Bess is… or even if she is still lives.
And even if they find her… will she let them go?
Read the reviews and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Rhymer-Jack-Hughes-Trilogy-ebook/dp/B00EPQL7KC
When the fairy folk deliver a soldier called Finn (the first outsider in plague-stricken Ireland for a decade) Erin believes he is Finn Mac Cool – returned to kill the tyrant King Conor Mac Nessa of Ulster. and free Great Queen Maeve – Ireland’s true ruler & Erin’s dying mother.
The druids kidnap Finn – planning to turn him into the hero Finn Mac Cool – who will save the world by destroying it.
Erin goes in looking for Finn – so he can kill Conor Mac Nessa before her mother’s dream of a free Ireland dies with her.
Erin’s quest draws her ever-deeper into Ireland’s ancient mythological landscape; a place…
… Where dream and reality merge
… Where a man’s fate is written fifteen hundred years before he was born
… Where books are legends & a library a myth
… Where people hate Christians for defying the gods
… Where phony druids use real magic
Find out more and buy the book: https://www.amazon.com/Finn-Mac-Cool-Paul-Andruss-ebook/dp/B018OJZ9KY
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My thanks again to Paul for another informative post to help us fill our gardens with colour. If you have any questions for Paul on gardening, please put in the comments.. thanks Sally
You can find Paul’s posts and the Gardening Column in this directory https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/paul-andruss-myths-legends-fantasy-and-gardening/