Thursday, February 7, 2013

Looking Forward To The Hellebores!

Big John, Denise and I delayed our plans to head up to the Alliant Exhibition Hall (Madison, WI) to set-up early for the WPT Garden Expo ( today.  When we heard about patchy ice up in Madison and a story about a school bus skidding off the road, we opted to go tomorrow morning which appears to be much safer (and was a wise decision).  With the event starting at 3 pm tomorrow, we'll have plenty of time to get our booth set-up and situated.  The rain this morning turned to big snow flakes although the temperature was still just above freezing.  We had a cozy and productive day inside though.  Above is Vern staining another of our recently sanded benches. Below is Mary W. who did a great job helping Vern and Ron Y. (second photo down) work on the benches.  We have two Grumpies (Bob C. and Gene) working on sanding our benches at home too.  We're close to 1/3 done but it is a long and arduous process with the end result being some very nice looking benches with a uniform stain.  Dr. Gredler and Pat worked on more obelisk/pyramid painting while Larry continued to gather supplies for the Garden Expo and did some other odds and ends.  Jim D. was in to help out as was Dick H.  Gary was cleaning the laser engraver and fell asleep (third photo down) briefly before finishing the task.  This is a lot of work that involves accessing, removing, cleaning and replacing multiple mirrors and using giant Q-tips to catch other debris.  He does a nice job and probably needed that cat nap anyway.  We also saw Big John and Kris K.  I worked on some future presentations and am starting to size up our perennial order for this spring.

Once this snow clears and we get a couple warm days, I'll start looking more closely at our hellebores (Helleborus sp.) that have already budded during our warm January.  Over the past two years, we've acquired, grown and photographed many more hellebores which are ideal for the partly shaded border and very early blooms.  While normally we see hellebores blooming in late March and throughout April, they started back in February last year with the warm start to the year.  There is currently significant breeding in hellebores with many interesting colors, double blossoms and even varieties with more upright blooms.  Most hellebores feature slightly nodding or dangling flowers (hence my hand modeling job below...)  Much work has been done on the inner petal markings and stabilizing color.  There are many "series" or collections of hellebores with many wonderful varieties.  Check out 'Royal Heritage', 'Sunshine Series', 'Gold Collection', 'Winter Thrillers' and 'Winter Jewels' as some of the most popular series available at this time.  There are many species, hybrids and cultivars available that are "bone hardy" for our area and will be long-lasting in the garden and rarely require division or relocation (if happy).  Some of the earliest blooming of our hellebores can be seen below with the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) with nice white blossoms and the purple hellebore (Helleborus purpurascens) in the second photo down.  The rest of the hellebores have their varietal names underneath the photo.  This is just a sampling of what is available and as we continue to augment our collection of this tough perennial at RBG, we'll keep taking photos and will promote this plant heavily.  Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Madison, WI) also has a nice collection of hellebores. 

Helleborus niger
Helleborus purpurascens
'Blue Lady'
'Ruse Black'
'Ivory Prince'
from 'Royal Heritage' series
'Red Mountain'
'Pink Lady'
'Mellow Yellow'
'Pink Frost'
from 'Sunshine Strain' series

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