Garden Notebook

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January 31, 2021

First Hellebore blossom of the season. It’s raining so much and for so long, that I wouldn’t be surprised to see an ark float by the windows. Believe it or not, I’m still cutting hellebore leaves when it’s not raining. Galanthus gracilis is almost in bloom. Pictures to come.

January 11, 2021

New year. New day. New pruners! You can see from the photo below my old pruners were in pretty bad shape. At fifteen years old, they had seen better days. They still worked, though, and that’s the good thing about Felco pruners. They’re expensive, but they last forever.


Side-by-side comparison


Felco Number 6: Beautiful and they fit my hand so well. They’re actually made for smaller hands, so it makes it easy to control the cutting action comfortably. I spent about an hour outside–yes–still working on the hellebores. It will take a while to finish the job. I’m in no hurry. It’s one of my favorite winter gardening tasks.
And here’s why:
Before pic of hellebores:
After pics of hellebores:

When these purple beauties fully open, you’ll really be able to see the blooms with no obstruction from the old leaves. After a bit, fresh leaves will emerge and stay green all through the next four seasons until we’re back here at winter 2022. The cycle of the seasons.
I left several piles of leaves in my leaf-cutting wake. I don’t place them on the compost heap as they are susceptible to a fungus known as hellebore black spot. 

So, that’s it. New pruners make this gardener very happy. They will definitely make the list in my gratitude journal tonight.

January 6, 2021

Today is Epiphany, Theophany, or Three Kings’ Day–take your pick. I didn’t get out in the garden much except for bird feeding, bird watching, and ditto for squirrels. I spent the day taking down the interior Christmas decorations. I debated leaving them up until Candlemas, but decided to clear the space. We’ll place the cut tree in a corner of the garden for the birds and other wildlife to make use of until we mulch it and spread it on the garden beds next spring (2022). Soon we will mulch the 2019 tree. It’s a cycle of sorts. It’s also a good way to save money and not waste a tree. I like having a real tree in my house for Christmas, so it makes good sense to me to recycle it. A wood chipper/mulcher is one of the best tools I’ve ever bought for the garden. Or for me. As the sun was sinking below the trees this evening, I watched the squirrels climb into their drey in the old oak tree in the front yard. The first was in by 5:11 and the last by 5:17. All in all a good day, even if I didn’t get my hands in the soil. Tomorrow is another day–that’s the great blessing of having a garden.

January 4, 2021

Another cold, overcast morning. It has me wondering if I’ll ever see the sun again. I did, of course, this afternoon as I set out to begin the task described yesterday of cutting off the ratty, old hellebore leaves. I chose a small corner of the garden to work in but in an hour’s time had managed to mill around randomly. The result? A few finished here; a few finished there; and none finished anywhere. But that’s ok with me. I enjoy the opportunity for play that a garden so generously gives. I enjoy the work in my garden so it always feel like a treat rather than a chore. Today the pine siskins, titmice, wrens, bluebirds, finch, and dark-eyed juncos gathered around the feeders as I kneeled down upon the damp ground. I’m rarely tempted to wear kneepads, so my old jeans always have muddy knees, at best, and holey knees, at worst. I often don’t wear garden gloves, either, but the toothy edges of hellebore leaves (see photo) irritate my skin, so for this job, I do.

Hellebore hybrid

Hellebores, often called by their common name of Lenten Rose, come in a variety of colors and shades: purple, pink, maroon, yellow, greenish, reddish, slatey grey, blue, white, and cream. They truly do make the winter garden a joyous place to be. And I’ll back in there tomorrow. And hopefully for many more tomorrows. I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be. I wrote an article for Seasons magazine about Hellebores. Have a look here:

January 3, 2021

As I walked around the garden this rainy January morning, I noticed the first blooms on Forsythia x intermedia ‘Gold Leaf.’ This shrub brightens up the most overcast of days, and is always reliably among the first winter woodys to break bud. It’s carefree besides a small amount of pruning to keep it from overstepping its boundaries in the Pond Border.

Forsythia x intermedia ‘Gold Leaf’

I also saw lots of hellebore buds—no blooms yet. Tomorrow I will begin the long process of cutting the leaves off so that the flowers will be easier to see. People are often surprised that I work in my garden in January. But actually, winter is my favorite time to work in the garden. No mosquitoes, ticks, or snakes. No heat. No intense southern humidity. And so many blooms! I love all the beauties that brave the cold to show up and shine in the winter landscape. I’ll be sharing my favorites here in the days to come.