Signs of spring in the ornamental garden

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IN A planned ornamental garden there is colour at this time of year and providing this are aconites and snowdrops.

These dainty miniatures are a sign that spring is on the horizon, however, with no severe wintry weather so far in our area, any adverse conditions which are sure to come will put a check on growth.

Another plant that is showing signs of new life are the hellebores. Already shoots with flower buds are well up and it is this reason that last season’s foliage is removed now, in fact, it was better to have already been done.

Removing the previous season’s foliage before the flower stems appear lessens the risk of accidentally cutting or damaging the emerging shoots. It’s not too late but now extra care must be taken to preserve the flowers that are to come. By removing the foliage it allows the blossoms to be seen as their best as the foliage of hellebores is quite excessive, including a wide leaf formation.

The white variety with its centre of golden-yellow stamens, H. niger, the so-called ‘Christmas Rose’, is usually the first to come out but not at the time the name suggests, normally its early spring.

The white variety is now by no means the only one available. Over the past few years breeders have been active producing a huge range of new varieties in a pleasing combination of bi-colours and petal and throat markings, making them a worthy addition to the herbaceous border.

Hellebores are quite hardy and readily multiply. They do best in well-drained moist soil in partial shade but are very adaptable to plant them where you best see their show of early colour. Overcrowded clumps can be divided in spring when flowering is over.