Tag Archives: Helleborus argutifolius

Occasional Daily Weather Report 2/11/16

While it seems everyone else is diligently topping off their water table with generous rainfall and/or snowfall, there’s no use denying it’s already chair cushion season here.
Los Angeles in February decided to go high 80s, tipping into the 90s. It feels like a Peanuts/Charles Schultz setup, with Charlie Brown (me) trusting Lucy (weather people) not to pull the football (El Nino) away again as he winds up for a mighty kick of faith, only to fall on his ass for the umpteenth time. But it’s hard to be grumpy about the lack of rainfall when it’s so gosh-darn beautiful outside. When the drought-driven apocalypse comes to Southern California, we will all be wearing flip-flops and T-shirts and sipping the latest artisinal cocktail. Like the last days of Pompeii, we won’t know what hit us.


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Aloe ‘Safari Sunrise’

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Aloe conifera

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Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’

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Euphorbia atropurpurea

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Leucadendron ‘Winter Red’

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Glaucium grandiflorum

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Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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Helleborus argutifolius

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Bocconia frutescens

N.B. This seems like such a sensible idea. Maybe it’s been around for a while and I just haven’t noticed.
It goes like this: We get the special-order plants we want while avoiding the heavy shipping costs that mail order often entails, sometimes costing more than the plants themselves.
I just noticed that Monrovia is accepting online orders of their plants, which are delivered to a nursery near you for pickup.
However, since I haven’t tried it out yet, I’m not sure if there is a handling charge involved.
Now, if other wholesale growers like San Marcos Growers, Annie’s Annuals, and Native Sons jumped on this train, my plant budget would grow by leaps and bounds.

N.B.B. For spring plant orders, Chanticleer’s gravel garden plant list 2015.

Bloom Day January 2015

It wouldn’t do to start the new year off skipping the first Bloom Day, which is technically the 15th of every month, but our host Carol (May Dreams Gardens) doesn’t seem to mind slackers.

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Helleborus argutifolius, the last plant remaining, sown into the bricks against the back wall. I pulled the others in the garden to make room for new stuff.
That’s me, the savage gardener. It reseeds like crazy, so there’s no danger in losing it entirely.

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Subtle, jewelry-like flower buds from a climbing kalanchoe that was a gift.

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The flowers’ little bells are the exact same slatey-grey color as the buds. I think it’s Kalanchoe beauverdii

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Aloe capitata a couple days ago. The bloom was just about finished today

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Bocconia frutescens, the Tree Poppy, keeps sending out flowers

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Bloom truss from Bocconia frutescens

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I just planted these osteospermum last week, a variety called ‘Zion Orange’ (the name was inspired by the colors of Zion National Park)

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Phlomis lanata is getting woolly with new growth, at the same time sending out occasional flowers

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Lavandula multifida is rarely without flowers

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Euphorbia milii appreciated the recent rain. Planted in September 2014

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Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ just planted in December

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Mangave bloom spike, technically no flowers yet

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I’ll close it out with Kalanchoe beauverdii again, threading its way along the pipe rack/junk collector .
The hanging pot was a Christmas present, temporarily filled with Pachypodium namaquanum, the “Halfmens.”

Lastly, we had the great pleasure of a visit in December by Andrew and Loree, who blogs at Danger Garden. Loree wrote a wonderfully kind account of her visit here.

Bloom Day February 2014

I wonder if I’d get tired of a garden with nothing but chartreuse flowers for months on end. I suppose it’s possible.


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Helleborus argutifolius. Tough and beautiful, doesn’t complain, doesn’t expect any special treatment. All stellar attributes. Incredibly promiscuous in the seeding-around department, but nobody’s perfect.

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Euphorbia rigida is also full of similarly positive attributes but only lightly reseeds.

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This euphorbia is an absolute terror as far as reseeding, but again it’s hard to say no to chartreuse. (Hard to say no to euphorbias in general.) It’s either E. niciciana (Euphorbia seguieriana ssp.niciciana) or E. nicaeensis. I remember buying it years ago as E. niciciana, but I could be mistaken. I know I’ll regret not weeding out these few plants, but they make even February seem lush.

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Echeveria agavoides is possibly even more charming in bloom, if that’s possible

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Poppy time. The first blooms of Papaver rupifragum

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A gazania just starting to close up shop as the sun was setting.

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Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons’ in need of a cutback for spring.

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In the front garden, new blooms on the enormous patch of dyckia. The lack of rain has impacted the snail population to the garden’s advantage this winter.
Snails love dyckia spears like I love asparagus spears.

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I’m including the Brachysema praemorsum ‘Bronze Butterfly’ because technically it is blooming, but the red claw-like blooms are both virtually invisible as well as insignificant.

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This salvia looks very promising, a cross of Salvia pulchella with Salvia involucrata. My source, Annie’s Annuals, thanks Strybing Arboretum for this purportedly compact salvia.

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The Phlomis lanata I planted in fall are beginning to bloom. Very excited to see how this fairly compact phlomis with the common name of Pygmy Jerusalem Sage fits into the scheme of things.

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Lavandula multifida has been in steady, nonstop bloom since its fall planting.

Snow, mud, or otherwise, we all want to know how February is treating you. As always, Carol at May Dreams Gardens collects our stories.

Bloom Day January 2014

Scrounging around the garden for something to report this first Bloom Day of 2014 made me realize that although nothing big and splashy was catching my eye, there’s still plenty to give bees, hummingbirds, and other pollinators micro energy drinks throughout the day, especially the acacia and coronilla. But the star attraction for bees is hands down the Agave desmettiana in bloom. This morning Marty and I stood quietly a few inches from the bloom stalk just to listen to the thrum of activity. He was shocked that I had never cupped my hands around my ears to amplify sound before. Just another example of what a sheltered life I’ve led. If like me you haven’t done so, try it. The quiet thrum was instantly transformed into a buzzing, wing-beating roar.


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Helleborus argutifolius, whose fresh seed germinates as soon as it hits the ground, with the big rosettes of Echium simplex in front. I’m dying to see those cool white spikes rise up this summer.

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Bilbergia nutans with lots more blooms to come. How did this free-flowering bromeliad get by me for so many years?

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Nancy Ondra’s nicotiana selection is as charming as ever. Such a good plant for fall, winter and spring here, but dies off when the heat arrives. Seeds profusely.

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Acacia podalyrifolia. Until I decide what shape to prune it, shrub or tree, this acacia will continue to whack everybody in the face as they exit the driver’s side of their car. At least it smells nice.

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Unlike this really skunky plectranthus.

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Echeveria coccinea is managing to bloom in the very dry soil under the tetrapanax.

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I launched a massive plant hunt locally for Geranium ‘Ann Folkard,’ so it could weave through the skirts of Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’ this summer. None was found, but instead of mail ordering ‘Ann Folkard’ I opted to try a magenta brethren, Geranium cinereum ‘Subcaulescens’ found at a nursery in El Segundo. This is one instance I would have preferred the trailing habit of AF, but the clumping G. cinereum has already distinguished itself by continually pumping out scads and scads of shocking magenta flowers. Quite the eye-rubbing sight before the first cup of coffee in the morning.

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I didn’t realize there was such variability with Pelargonium sidoides until I found this one with a larger leaf but smaller, darker flowers at Robin Parer’s booth at a plant show last year. Always has a few blooms on it.

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Coronilla valentina will go supernova, covered in bloom, by the end of the month.

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Budding up. Euphorbias, dyckias, and aloes.

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I was recently talked into a trial subscription to The Wall Street Journal, which has since been arriving dangerously close to Aloe capitata’s developing bloom stalk, its first ever. (Home delivery subscription cancelled today.)

Carol hosts this invaluable monthly record of blooms at her blog May Dreams Gardens.

glass floral frog

There was some good-natured bartering done among ourselves at the end of the recent flea market/bloggers’ pop-up shop in December. I swapped Dustin one of Marty’s sailor knot creations for this glass floral frog. Floral frogs have an old-fashioned, tight-laced whiff about them — they are, after all, essentially a girdle for flower stems — and are not something I’ve ever worked with before, being more a proponent of the plop-it-in-a-vase school of flower arranging. But I was drawn to this glass frog as a beautiful object in its own right.

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But it would be silly to ignore its intended function. I thought it might be useful in supporting stems in vessels not necessarily meant as vases, like all the pottery I’ve accumulated that is either too wide or too low to hold stems upright effectively. And in winter particularly, a low bowl shape is ideal for holding seasonal, short-stemmed cut flowers like Helleborus argutifolius and all the other interesting odds and ends that lack long stems and need a little help standing up straight.

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Typically, the frog would be hidden deep in the container.

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After playing around with different containers, I don’t see why it can’t also be completely exposed, sitting on the rim of smaller pots.

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The shrub-like Corsican hellebore is the only one I grow, and it happens to be the longest lasting in vases. I’ve always been reluctant to rob the garden of flowers, but I really think it’s time I get over it. There’s really no better way to appreciate the intricacies of their structure. I followed conventional wisdom and dipped the freshly cut stems in boiling water for 20-30 seconds.

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Sunday clippings 12/8/13

(baby, it’s cold outside…)

The cold front that’s been scaring the bejeezus out of Central Valley citrus growers hit new lows last night. The back garden temperature gauge registered 40 degrees at 7ish a.m., but that’s our moderating coastal influence looking after us. I can remember maybe once in 25 years at this house waking to a skin of ice on the cats’ outdoor water bowl, and that was the year the bedded-out ‘Zwartkop’ aeoniums turned to blackened mush at the Huntington. A salutary effect of the colder temps is getting to play-act at enduring a real winter, which means I don’t go out without my brown corduroy trench coat and have even taken to wearing Marty’s Kangol/Samuel L. woolen cap. (That would be me channeling Samuel L. in Pulp Fiction, not Snakes on Planes.) The cold weather has been liberating in the sense that we can pretend we’ve finally joined the clan of the cold-weather tribes, even if those hardy tribes would probably scoff at what they’d consider still shirt-sleeve and flip-flops weather.


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The first hellebore flowers in the back garden this morning

Yesterday we mapquested ourselves to Big Daddy’s in Culver City, not that far away but always tricky for me to find on La Cienega Place and not on the boulevard. Remodelista was hosting a holiday market at Big Daddy’s, and it was wonderful to see it so well-attended. I’d been noticing among friends and family that holiday cheer is at best tepid this year. My mom is the ultimate holiday cheer barometer and uncharacteristically hasn’t unpacked any of her boxes and boxes of decorations yet, though I noted last night her little collapsible tree had finally been shaken from its box, string of lights intact and ready to glow. My haircutter’s theory yesterday is that having a Thanksgiving so late in the month is to blame for any holiday fatigue. Taking my own holiday-cheer pulse, I seem to feel the same about this holiday as I do every year, which is generally positive towards a seasonal celebration that endorses bringing trees and branches and cones and seedpods indoors, with one notable variation. I seem to want to go, get out, see stuff this year, and have even bought tickets for a Nutcracker ballet. I’ve also bought tickets for the Peter Pan-inspired play Peter and the Starcatcher, so for me there seems to be a definite childhood regression theme to the holidays this year.

A few photos from Big Daddy’s yesterday:

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airplantman

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We had to park a couple blocks away, and on the way back I noticed a thick, overgrown stand of horsetail reed planted in a narrow band between a commercial building and sidewalk, a common urban deployment of this linearly sculptural but invasive rush. I grabbed the pen knife from the glove box and cut as many of the cone-producing stems as I could shove into a grocery bag. I find the new, dark brown/black cones on the forest green stems, punctuated by black bars at regular intervals, exceptionally beautiful. From those cones, spores will be launched to further the survival of this aggressive, expansionist, eons-old plant, so cutting it back when in early bloom is a public service, the way I see it.

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And, boy, do they look great in a vase, in a holiday-cheerful sort of way.


Bloom Day March 2013

If it weren’t for the few stems of Scilla peruviana in bloom I’d feel completely out of step this March Bloom Day, when so many participating gardens are sending forth crocus and iris and so many other traditional spring bulbs and blooms. We may have flowers every month of the year, as Carol’s Bloom Day muse Elizabeth Lawrence declares, but we won’t all necessarily have the same flowers.


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I’ve been trimming away the lower leaves from a Geranium maderense to let some sun in on this patch of scilla.
Even in perfect conditions this bulb takes some years off and refuses to bloom.

What I’m most interested in this year is a little meadow/chaparral experiment that I’m hoping will bloom through summer in full sun, fairly dry conditions. It’s really begun to fill in the past couple weeks.

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Diascia personata is part of this experiment, three plants, two planted in fall and a cutting struck from one of them that has already made good size. Thanks go to Annie’s Annuals & Perennials for being the only U.S. source, via Derry Watkins’ extraordinary nursery in England. In the 1980s I reverently brought new diascia species and varieties home from Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California, the only source at that time. Now all the local nurseries carry them as bedding plants every spring, and of course being a plant snob I don’t grow them anymore. But diascias can be very good here along the coast in the long cool spring and early summer, dwindling off in the heat of August. This Diascia personata’s height to 4 feet is a very intriguing asset.

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Also in the little meadow is Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell,’ and self-sown poppies, probably Papaver setigerum.
I like calling it my “meadow” when in truth it covers as much ground as a large picnic blanket.

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Blue oat grass, helicotrichon on the left, borders one side of the meadow/chaparral.

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Bordering a pathway elsewhere there’s a big swathe of this silvery gazania, maybe five plants, which counts as a swathe in my garden. In full sun they’d be open and you’d see what a shockingly striped and loud harlequin variety I chose last fall. Can’t fault those beautiful leaves though.

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More beautiful leaves to shore up what few flowering plants I actually grow. Senecio leucostachys is the big silvery sprawler. Small flashes of color from the Moroccan toadflax, Linaria reticulata, and the saffron-colored blooms of Salvia africana-lutea picking up speed, especially in recent temps in the high 80s. The phormium was bought misnamed as the dwarf ‘Tom Thumb.’ Whatever it’s true name, it’s stayed fairly compact and seems to have topped off at about 3 feet.

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Closeup of the salvia bloom.

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Euphorbia lambii began to bloom this week.

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The tree euphorbia really grew into its name this year.

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Kind of amazing to write that Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix’ has been in bloom all winter.
I’ve been cutting off old branches as the flowers go to seed. The brick paths are full of its seedlings.
Fresh basal leaf growth is coming in strong.

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Salvia chiapensis backed by Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’

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And a different view against a backdrop of sideritis and a big clump of Helleborus argutifolius.

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The yellow-flowered form of Russellia equisetiformis is just so very cool.

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Nasturtiums are ruthlessly thinned, but this climbing variety was allowed to fill in the bottom of a tuteur that supports the coronilla, which is still in full, aureate bloom.

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The coronilla with the nasturtium growing at the base of its support

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The seductive little species geraniums/pelargoniums are at their very best in spring

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Also beginning bloom is one of my favorite sedums. S. confusum.

Thanks again to Carol of May Dreams Gardens and all who participate in opening their gardens on Bloom Day.

Bloom Day February 2013


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I admit I’m a vulgarian, if there was any doubt left. By February I’m starved for brash and garish, even though it violates the subtle order of nature that has spring unfolding with a delicacy that builds by degrees to a late summer, over-the-top crescendo. I go straight to over-the-top, and containers of gaudy tulips are the perfect vehicle for strong, fleeting boosts of color. I wouldn’t want masses of them, but a few in a pot are visual antidepressants on long stems, my go-to designer drug for jumpstarting spring. The species don’t like the chill-free winter here anyway, so that preempts any debate about the quiet beauty of species tulips versus the gypsy caravan hybrids. These hybrids are artificially chilled for six weeks in the garage fridge then go straight to the compost heap after blooming. This is the first pot of tulips to flower, the hybrid ‘Boston.’

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Lotus jacobaeus would be wonderful draping over a low wall. I’ve clipped this one back quite a bit to keep it from smothering plants below, like the tall Aeonium ‘Cyclops.’ Its shrubby-but-lax framework is about 3 feet high now, kept upright with a rebar stake. A light background propels the velvety dark blooms. I like it against the pale leaves of the variegated Australian mint bush (prostranthera), and the lotus is thin enough in growth to weave through the shrub without harming it.

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When there’s so many amazing succulents to grow, why choose the modest Crassula multicava? Because of its supernova show in spring, when it hoists those starry bloom structures over simple, dark green leaves. It would make an elegant ground cover at the base of palms. Here it’s sharing space with a potted cussonia. The crassula has a similar foamy effect to London’s Pride (Saxifraga umbrosa) or heuchera in bloom, neither of which grow in such rugged conditions for me.

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Like the lotus, another lax member of the pea family, coronilla, has really started to bloom in the mini heat wave we’re having the past couple days. This shrub is supported and wound through a tuteur and has grown past the eaves of the garage roof. Its overall effect is that of a gigantic rue, except rue stinks and coronilla smells lovely.

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More brash. Love the moroccan toadflax, an annual that blooms well through the winter and spring here. Hasn’t self-sown yet, so I keep bringing in a few plants in fall.

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I have just a few clumps of the Corsican hellebore, which is all the space I can spare, though I could have lots, lots more.
It carpet-bombs the garden with seedlings.


Lots of emerging gardens to explore at May Dreams Garden, where Carol is to be congratulated for hosting Bloom Days for seven years this February.

Bloom Day December 2012

The last Bloom Day in 2012 — I’m keeping this one short, but if interested you can use the search function on the blog for more information/photos on any of these.


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Helleborus argutifolius

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Perlargonium echinatum

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Gerbera ‘Drakensberg Carmine’

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Senecio medley-woodii, shrubby, grey-leaved succulent, its yellow daisies beginning to bloom this month

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Oenothera macrocarpa ssp. incana’s blindingly yellow blooms an unexpected December surprise


hellebores in the rear-view mirror


To write that hellebores are a much-desired plant for winter gardens is stating the obvious. I grow nothing but H. argutifolius, the Corsican hellebore, and have become a repetitive bore in constantly blogging my adoration for it, but I do admire all kinds wherever I travel in winter. This moody, Moorish, Othello of a hellebore was photographed near the office at Annie’s Annuals. Possibly ‘Onyx Odyssey’?


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A pale yellow growing in the courtyard of our lodgings in San Francisco.

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But by April it’s time to think about saying goodbye to this constant winter companion. Yesterday I cut most of my garden’s fallen bloom stalks, split the stems at the bottom about an inch or so, and filled a couple large vases full.


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How’s that for a performance? Bloom all winter and still look this good in a vase.

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Sepals and nectaries

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Helleborus argutifolius, like H. foetidus, are the caulescent hellebores, or those with above-ground stems, so cleaning them up is a simple matter of cutting away the long (3-foot and over) bloom stalks. Fresh new leaves are already forming, trifoliate, evergreen, leathery goodness for spring and summer that I promise not to blog about for the next six months.


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