Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Grande Dame of Early Spring

She's here! Helleborus orientalis, Lenten rose, has risen her lovely, statuesque head to greet we winter-weary, waterlogged folk with a true taste of spring. There she is, amid the tattered remnants of last year's leaves. She's shown up in my garden in robes of purple, ivory and speckled green.

Time to do right by her. Here's how:

First, release her from those ugly leftover leaves. Cut them down at the base and toss into the compost, being exquisitely careful not to cut her flower stems, as they are close together. Then, if she has any progeny under her skirts, pot them up for gifts, garden club plant sales, or transplant them right away.

Don' t be alarmed if the temperature drops into the 20's one of these nights; the Lenten rose will droop in the cold, but revives in the light of day. She's a northern gal and can take the cold.

I do hope you've given Lady Lenten Rose a place of honor in your garden, where her blooms can be admired now, when there's so little in bloom, and on into the six weeks or so that she flowers. At the front of the flower bed, or next to the front door, in a moist, shady spot is ideal.

And did you know that she makes a gracious bouquet?

All in all, the Lenten rose, while a tad expensive at the nursery, is a most regal presence in the border. Early, deer-proof, colorful, long-lasting....what more could we wish for?

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