Garden lore

“In the plan of human conduct there is a marked difference between the mind which sees beauty in a simple violet and that which sees it in a pompous rose or dahlia. On the one hand we have a love for the free and untampered flowers of God’s creation, on the other hand for a flower of social ills, sophistication and conceit.”

Jens Jensen , Siftings (1939).

The aphid infestation on old hellebore leaves

The aphid infestation on old hellebore leaves

Hellebores in autumn Hellebores are one of the easiest care perennials there is, but even the most common H. orientalis benefits from a bit of seasonal grooming. I dead head in spring to stop excessive seeding and because the spent flowers can get heavily infested with aphids. By autumn, the foliage can be infested too. There are the tiny white tufty aphids and a whole lot of sooty residue which is the result of their honey dew excretions. I am going through now removing most of the old foliage. It looks a little bare until the fresh leaves and flowers appear, but it means the nodding blooms are much more visible and the new foliage is much prettier, while reducing the aphid infestations. Auckland plantsman, Terry Hatch, once told me he puts the lawnmower over his hellebore patches. I do it by hand with snips. I also remove the abundant fresh seedlings. A blanket of compost tidies up the area afterwards and feeds the plants. Timing is everything. If you leave the trimming too late, you have to work around each emerging flower and new leaf which makes it a fiddly job.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.