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Hellebore turned four

geranium 1

This post is about transplanting and dividing hellebores, but work with me for a moment. We’ve gone back in time to early February. When you pass by our house, you might notice the brick planter overflowing with geraniums.  It’s all very quaint and suburban.

geranium 2

A little closer, and you can see they’re a little stressed, but still hanging in there. To be fair, I only watered them twice. They rewarded my neglect with bunches and bunches of flowers, the poor things.

geranium 3

Huh…. what are those black sesame seed things all over it?

Oh. Ohhhh.

BLACK SCALE.

EVERYWHERE.

It was far too infested to save, so I ripped it all out (and then bagged it, to contain the scale). Sorry, geranium, I really should have paid more attention to you, but you had to go. The scale didn’t stick around either, but I’ve got white oil just in case.

purple hellebore - six petals

Now, finally, the real subject of this post: my hellebores. AKA winter roses, Lenten roses, etc. There’s tons of cultivars and I don’t know how to describe this one, other than “purple.” (This particular flower also has six petals, rather than the usual five — cool.)

Back in early spring, I found these little guys hidden in the forest that’s our mixed border. Cute, right? Too cute to be hiding behind a bunch of bossy euphorbia stalks. They held onto their flowers for months, changing from purple to green, until just the foliage remained. I was impressed.

ground hellebore

empty brick planter

So I decided that the hellebores deserved to be in a more prominent location. Before I dug up them up, though, I topped up the soil in the brick planter to be new-plant-friendly. 

I scooped out a few inches of old soil and then added compost and potting mix, with a handful of blood and bone. I also added water-retaining crystals, because this area is semi-protected and I’ll probably get lazy about watering this planter, so. A hand cultivator was perfect for mixing it all together.

clump hellebore

I dug up my clump, and then it was cutting time.

clump hellebore 2

I was nervous about the idea of mutilating a plant, but I did watch Martha calmly explain how to divide hellebores, so I felt prepared. You saw into its thick, bulbous base with a knife. It’s like cutting through the toughest bit of a cabbage. As long as each section has some of the central bulb-y bit, it should grow into a whole new plant.

just planted

Well look at that, one hellebore is now four. As the Australian Martha Stewart might say, yeah it’s good value hey.

This area is on a shady, south-facing wall with a bit of morning sun, and as far as I know, these are things that hellebores like. I really hoped that it’d work out and I’d get four new plants in the end, because hacking up perfectly established plants feels so uncomfortable, y’know?

I read conflicting recommendations on when to divide and replant hellebores, but late summer or early autumn sounded reasonable, so I went with that.

new growth

month later

Well lo and behold, within a month they started to put on new growth. That was my cue to cut off the tatty old foliage and fill out the planter. Time to pretty it up a bit.

small plants

brick planter

I chose plants with interesting foliage that don’t mind shade and moderate to damp soil. Golden Japanese rush (Acorus pusillus aurea) and black mondo grass for my tiny clumping grasses, and Australian native violet (Viola hederacea) to go everywhere else. All of these plants can also be easily divided; that $10 pot of black mondo grass got turned into 5 separate clumps.

brick planter 3

brick planter 2

It should all fill in really well, if not overly so! With luck, it’ll look really good in winter once the purple hellebores come back.  The hellebores will eventually take over, but I don’t mind making it look good in the meantime. The yard is an eternal work in progress, the exterior wants a fresh coat of paint and the patio is untouched, but at least there’s one small area that’s looking nice.

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