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Plant of the Week:


Thank heaven for hellebores - a happy addition to every garden! These evergreen blooming perennials are without a doubt the star of the winter and early spring garden! Hellebores flower no matter how cold it gets; in fact, they actually prefer the cool weather. And when they first bloom, you know spring is not far behind! The flowers come in white, pink, rose, crimson, purple, black and chartreuse, and both double and single blooms. And did we mention they are easy to grow and care for? Drought-tolerant once established, Hellebores are at their best in evenly moist soil in partial shade. Be sure to water during extended dry periods. To tidy plants up, prune the areas that have become overgrown and new shoots will appear quickly. Cutting the older leaves off hellebores in autumn or early winter provides space for new leaves and flowers to grow. Here are a few of our hellebore faves:

Helleborus Berry Swirl - fully double blooms in enchanting shades of orchid Berry Swirl is easy to grow, producing compact mounds of dark evergreen leaves that are the perfect backdrop to the stunning flowers. Typically ignored by deer and rabbits, this Hellebore will bring fantastic color and texture to shady borders, containers, or rock gardens. Prefer shade and are deer resistant.

Helleborus Double Fantasy - new semi-double form has beautiful white, outward facing flowers on tall stems, with ruffled petals and a circle of gold stamens - truly magical! Handsome dark green leaves form compact clumps, accentuating the pure white buds in early spring. Foliage is clean and virtually spot-free. Deer and rabbit resistant. Perfect in shaded woodland, native or shade gardens.

Helleborus Pink Frost - burgundy stems support leathery leaves with a silver frosting. The flowers are a combination of white, pink, and deep rose tones and are upward facing - unusual for a hellebore. 'Pink Frost' is evergreen, long blooming, and deer resistant too! Makes a superb groundcover and choice perennial for shady borders.

source: Monrovia & Terra Nova Nurseries

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Tidy Up

by Kathy Van Mullekom, a lifelong gardener and gardening writer living in York County, Virginia

I used to faithfully clean up my perennial garden in late fall, cutting stems down to the ground and cleaning up any fallen debris – that is, until I got into pollinators and beneficial insects and the whole healthy environment thing.

After reading how beneficial insects can spend winter hunkered down among the stems and foliage of dormant perennials, I changed my ways.

Now, I allow all those perennials – bee balm, coneflowers, verbena, fennel, salvia and others – to stay there until early March when I tidy up everything, making sure I don’t disturb any emerging new foliage. I also make sure I don’t step on crowns, or the place where the stem meets the roots. Planting perennials with the crowns barely above soil level helps keep the plants from rotting, especially in winter when the cold rains and snows can take their toll.

My huge perennial garden -- nicknamed my “B3 garden” for birds, bees and butterflies – doesn’t exactly look the best from the window of my sitting room, but it’s in the backyard where I enjoy it most and no one from the street can see its unruly behavior.

This winter, my newly planted mountain mint hosted bees as late as December, and the seed heads of Brazilian verbena were fine dining for finches.

Using bypass hand pruners, I snip each herbaceous perennial stem as close to the ground as I can, and put all the dead material in the trash. Don’t tug on the stems or you could risk dislodging the roots. You can cut the stems into small pieces and place them in the compost pile if you are sure they are disease free.

While pruning, I also take time to remove any weeds around the plants, knowing my next garden project is spring mulch!

PHOTO: Brazilian verbena in the winter waits for its spring haircut, so it can once again bloom beautifully in summer in Kathy Van Mullekom’s garden.

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