My garden this weekend – 15/12/13

Hellebore niger

Hellebore niger

Perversely I like this time of year in the garden.  Every half hour stolen seems like a bonus and a treat.  For a change I have actually done all the jobs I need to do for the winter and so everything I do now is a bonus. The weather is mild, although a little damp, and it is a relief to get outside for a bit of fresh air and exercise.

Saturday saw me finally finishing mulching the front garden with chipped bark.  I didn’t think I would get a chance to do this before the ground froze but somebody was on my side and hopefully the mulch will help with locking in the moisture and keeping the weeds down.

I also removed the leaves from the majority of the hellebores.  I have done this for a few years now but I can’t remember the logic for it any more and I find myself wondering whether indeed it is the best thing to do; something to research.  I was pleased to see emerging buds on all the plants including those I bought earlier this year from Ashwoods but I was especially pleased to see two buds on the Hellebore niger which I have been struggling to establish for a few years.


Although the forecast for the next week indicates that the temperatures aren’t going to drop much lower I decided today to use the time to put a little more protection around my borderline hardy plants.  Last year I covered the crowns of the three Melianthus major with straw and they came through the winter fine, although of course it wasn’t as hard a winter as we had in the two years previously.  As I had some straw left over I have done the same again this year and also protected the Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan’ which has thrived in the Big Border and the three Watsonias which I am risking in the border as they are just too big for the greenhouse now.

2013_12150030I was reading back through my garden diary last night.  It was satisfying to see that some of the things I planned to do this time last year have been achieved but it was also amusing to see how my son’s woodworking hobby and the need to house it thwarted at least two projects; at one point I think we were on Plan R! On the plus side it meant I had to get on and dig up the lawn which I had been procrastinating about for a while.  I am still thinking about a focus for the Big Border but my instinct is to go Cottage Garden style but with a mid-late summer focus.


The last area that really needs a winter clean-up is the sunny end of the slope.  This area has seen the most upheaval this year due to the workshop going in.  All my Asters from the slope have been shoe-horned, along with other late summer perennials, into a tiny space about a third of the area they were in before.  I really don’t feel that the way I planted them, admittedly in haste, has shown them to their best so I am thinking that I may clear the slope and relocate the plants into the Big Border.  I also need to finish staining the fences and the workshop but we are still waiting for the green wood to dry out completely – the glass in two of the paves has cracked due to the sides of the workshop shifting as it dries.  The work never really ends does it.

Meanwhile in all the border there are signs of bulbs pushing their noses through the soil which makes me feel that Spring really isn’t that far away.

17 Comments on “My garden this weekend – 15/12/13

  1. Hi, I remove all the old hellebore leaves as they tend to hide the emerging flowers. The flowers then come up with a new crop of small leave and the blossoms can be seen and admired above the new foliage. I live in Washington DC area. I like your blog. John

  2. Phew , big job to remove Hellebore leaves ! I thought it is recommended so that the flowers are more prominent but maybe there are other more important reasons. Do pass on the results of that research please !
    Always a lovely sight when the first bulbs begin to push through. It somehow signifies the beginning of the end of winter ! I have a really skewed view of winter anyway, and feel that the corner is turned on the shortest day, and that we are climbing out from there ! Ever the optimist !

    • Hi HHG
      From talking to a couple of plantsmen on twitter it seems the reason is to protect from a black spot disease and because they can look messy in the winter. I am thinking that I might not bother next winter and see how they go

  3. You may see that I have had the same thought about the leaves on my H niger – but certainly won’t trim any of the others except any that are damaged. You must be chuffed to feel on top of everything, even if you are unsure about your plans for next year – there will be plenty of time for more stolen half hours before then!

    • Hi Cathy
      Strangley I dont cut the leaves off my Helleborus niger, mine dont seem to have many leaves and the flowers, such as they are are quite visible.

  4. I too remove all the hellebore leaves as some have black spot which can get transferred to the flowers when they come through. It also means that you can see the flowers better and also any snowdrops that are planted in between. They quickly grow new leaves so aren’t without for long. I like your plans for a late summer border, it is what I am trying to do here by the field next door.

    • Hi Pauline
      I think in future I may not remove all the leaves since I really like the foliage or I may wait a bit longer.

  5. I only remove the leaves that look manky on my hellebores, because mostly I really like the foliage. I am still envious that you managed to get rid of your lawn when I still have my front lawn, not to mention the circle bed! Your asters could fit in to the new big border rather well, I am excited to see what you do with that space. I love this time of year too, though I never get as much done out there as I want. I could do with your son’s skills with wood as most of my outdoor plans seem to involve woodwork of one sort or another – that or major earth and brick moving! Somehow I think a mere fraction of it will get done. I lost two out of my three Christmas Roses, but so far the survivor is looking robust. I need to understand why they disappeared – along with my wonderful epimediums – before I try replacing them.

    • Hi Janet
      I dont think my lawn would have disappeared so quickly if my son hadnt been so keen to get his workshop!! Without his help I think a lot of what I do wouldnt happen so I am lucky
      My epimediums are on fairly well drained soil but good clay based soil. I love epimediums and seem to be acquiring a bit of a collection.

  6. Terry Hatch of Joy Plants who breeds hellebore’s just south of Auckland, a real character who was born in London – has hundreds growing under trees and just mows them off in April (autumn) and forgets about them. If you happen to come to Auckland his gardens and nursery are well worth going to. He has bred and saved many types of plants and is very entertaining. A real treasure!

    • Hi Yvonne
      Goodness fancy having enough hellebores that you can mow them – what a delightful idea

  7. Gardening time seems like a deliciously naughty treat at this time of year Helen but oh so much more enjoyable than toiling away in hot weather. Interesting to see what you have done with your melianthus . One of my allotment neighbours gave me a large plant in a pot a few weeks ago. It has made it home into the greenhouse but I think that it needs some additional protection. Pauline has taken the words out of my mouth about the desirability of removing hellebore leaves but they survive in the wild with untrimmed foliage 🙂

    • Hi Anna
      I grew my melianthus from seed a few years back and they spent the first winter in the greenhouse but then they got too big so have been out for two years now. And yes Hellebores do fine in the wild with untrimmed leaves which I think is what got me pondering why I was removing the leaves in the first place. Apparently, the majority of species hellebores are decidious so that might also explain how they do so well in the wild

  8. I was starting to worry about two Helleborus niger I planted last year as they’ve yet to show any signs of life. If yours are only just budding I have some hope. I’ve just been listening to the RHS podcast where they talked about removing the old leaves of Hellebores. They say it is because the old leaves harbour pests and diseases (like black spot as Pauline suggested).

    • Hi MPB
      My Helleborus niger has taken a few years to get going and I think that is quite common so dont panic. I have removed the leaves but I think next year I wont remove as many unless they are covered with black spot – there was no sign of it this year.

Please feel free to leave comments as its always lovely to get feedback. I try to respond to comments as much as possible but sometimes life and work get in the way but I will do my best to respond especially if your comment is a question.

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