Hellebores – do you have some? When did you last have a good look at them? Go and hunt them out and give them a bit of care and attention and they’ll reward you with spectacular flowers in the coldest, hardest time of year. Paula and Claire are great fans
From Paula at Mill pond flowers up in Scotland
The beginning of this season was exceptionally difficult for UK flower growers. The Beast from the East in March brought ice, snow and howling gales at a time when we hoped to be starting to sell flowers. It killed off shrubs, damaged emerging tulips and called to a halt any thoughts of Spring. Once it was receding and the season began in earnest, 6 weeks late in Scotland, I assessed the damage and hunted for positives. The hellebores were the one plant that withstood the worst of the weather, shrugged it off and got on with flowering, producing bunches of breath-taking, delicate-looking blooms to lift the spirits and get the season properly underway.
From Claire in Surrey
2018 was the year I took earlier wedding bookings than ever before… Unfortunately it was also the year that the season started later than ever before. While I played chicken with the tulips, hoping against hope i’d have them in time, the Hellebores just got on with giving of their best, and flowering their socks off giving beautiful blooms even in the face of cold and rain.
Here’s how Paula recommends you get the best from them
A bit of love in the autumn will prepare the plants well by feeding the developing buds and giving them a boost to take them through the winter. Hellebores love deep, rich humus soil and a dappled shady spot. By the end of the summer they’re usually a bit weedy and shabby looking, so give them a good tidy up and weed or hoe around them. Keep an eye out for self sown seedlings and pot them up if you’re lucky enough to have some new ones emerging. Top up the feed in their soil with some well rotted manure or compost and apply a mulch. I’ve used various mulches and they don’t seem to mind what it is – leafmould, sheep fleece, cardboard – so long as it provides a moisture retentive cover for the soil. Our sheep shearer now has a job assisting a tree surgeon and has begun to drop off the occasional load of wood chip, so this year they’re tucked up under a nice deep layer of fresh chippings and look very smart.
Autumn is the right time to divide hellebores too, so if they’re a good size and you want to increase plant stocks, take a sharp spade and slice up a big plant, making sure that each piece has a growing point. They might not flower so well in the following Spring but should grow on well after that. More hellebores can never be a bad thing, and no matter what the weather throws at you this winter, you’ll know they’re there, just waiting to burst into bloom!