Monthly Archives: February 2013

Christmas Rose my elbow

Christmas Rose aka HelleboreFor five years now I have been anticpating the blooming of one my favorite flowers, the Hellebore, at Christmas, due to the misleading common name used here in Ireland: Christmas Rose. Steeped in history and folklore, it is one of the most intriguing and reliable plants that I love and use in the garden. And for five years, I have continued to think it ‘must have been a funny year’ or maybe my Hellebore isn’t quite in the right place. And for five years I though how wonderful it would be to wake up Christmas morning and see the Hellebores blooming, in all their nodding glory. And, to be perfectly honest, I think writing about Hellebores is probably a bit overdone, especially at this time of year.  But, I write this for all the fellow misguided Christmas Rose fans: it does not bloom at Christmas, it blooms nowish. It was called the Christmas Rose based on some fairytale about a girl from Bethlehem whom had no gift for Christ and thus burst into tears. When her tears hit the ground they turned into Hellebores. That’s all…a bit of folklore. I can see the comparison, if I look very hard, as their flowers do nod and hang as if they were crying but still, Valentines Rose would have been more appropriate.

The perfect companion for Hellebores, in particular the darker ones which can get lost in the winter garden background, is Pachyphragma macrophllyum. They are beautiful, fragrant, clusters of white flowers which form a dense, evegreen groundcover (doesn’t get much better than that) and provide the perfect backdrop for for the Hellebore.

Hellebore and Pachyphragma Photo Shoot

Pachyphragma and Hellebore photo shoot

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Cyclamen. The Sundance Kid

cyclamenBobOsborn

There is only way to follow a post about Primulas and that is with a post on its inevitable garden centre cohort, Cyclamen.

The most I will say about the garden centre variety is that it should also be used as an accent plant and NOT a filler plant and do not plant it next to a Primula. They are quite ugly next to each other actually as neither their foliage nor their leaves complement one another.

Rather than dwelling on the useless garden centre varieties, I would really like to tell you instead about the Sundance Kid’s hardy cousin, Cyclamen coum. Unlike their gaudy relatives found in the garden centres, Cyclamen coum are perennial. They are beautiful and delicate winter charmers that don’t rot away or shrivel up the way their cousins do. I have them growing under a Japanese maple in the shade but I have also seen them growing in a full sun, rocky-face position at the front of a church in Cork (St. Thaddeus of the Seven Gables I think but I will let you know for sure when I see them again).

I have heard of them thriving in dry shade or that VERY difficult place to grow things: under mature pine trees. Plant them in drifts for the most effect and then complement your drifts with dots – dotting them here and there as if the wind had just blown them romantically all over the garden.

They are fantastic because they are delicate, tough, perennial AND of course, bloom in February – March, occasionally shining through again in October. The naturalized native, Cyclamen hederifolium, is great in the woodland garden as well, blooming from August-November

Cyclamen coum

Hellebores, Corydalis (good plant for the garden nerd by the way) and Anemone blanda are great companion plants.

By the book they prefer: part-shade, well drained soil but unfussy about aspect or soil type

Read more at: RHS Plant Selector Cyclamen coum AGM / RHS Gardening.

Where to find them in Ireland: Mount Venus, Dublin

Photo Courtesy of Bob Osborn, Yeovil, UK

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