Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Even Steven Foliage

The orientalis type of hellebores certainly give a lot to the garden, filling it in March with bushels of large flowers in a multitude of bright, clear pastels and deep, moody blues and purples. However the foliage certainly qualifies for the Even Steven lineup. Like it or not, our early winter garden is rapidly turning into something akin to an empty parking lot; just a few weeks ago it was crowded with late fall bloomers... now the chill wind swirls dried leaves through the bare flower beds and across the open pond, with the chickadees twittering sadly in the somber evergreens. Yet, the hellebores are still in full, green foliage; it is only with January's brutal onslaught that the leaves will begin to turn brown and sere. With good snow cover, the plants may remain fairly green until spring. I might seem ungrateful finding a fault with this mainstay of our shady garden, but here it is: the foliage is ungainly; this becomes apparent only when everything dies down around it in the late fall. It is then the Ichabod Crane of the garden; top-heavy and unkempt-looking, with long, naked shanks. I (or at least my climate) probably contribute to this appearance, for apparently hellebores aren't really as fond of shade as they are made out to be, so my plants (which are grown in fairly heavy shade because of the brutality of our summers) get a little floppy by the end of the year. Still, the hellebores need not get too caught up with themselves with their beauty in spring, for they are downright homely in the fall.
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