February flower of the Month - The Hellebore
Taking a walk outside in the rain this morning and pondering on the great long list of jobs there are to be done before Spring, I am torn between wanting the season to hurry up and arrive and for it to hold back! However, nature will not be fooled. The birds are starting to sing that little bit louder and stronger, shoots of green are appearing, snowdrops are starting to awaken but, best of all the, hellebores are coming.
Commonly referred to as Christmas rose or Lenten rose, indicating their time of flowering, they are not related to the rose family at all. The plants are poisonous, have strong leathery leaves and the flowers have a tendency to point downwards, such that lying on the ground to photograph them is not unknown. However, the flowers are truly beautiful and are available in many varieties, singles, doubles and a range of colours from the palest greens to the darkest pinks and even black. With such a wide variety they will be in flower from February until May on our farm.
The flowers are very long lasting on the plants and in fact the older they are the better the flowers hold in water once picked. The flowers do have a reputation for wilting. So the art is to wait until the seed head starts to form in the middle, pick into a bucket of water and then sear the stem in hot water for a few seconds, once indoors, then submerge up to the neck in water for a good long drink (overnight). Another trick (as recommended by Jonathan Moseley in one of his brilliant demonstrations) is to score down the side of the stem with a sharp knife before placing in a bucket of water to condition overnight.
The plants are tough and hardy, and whatever the weather their flowers start to shine through during February. Next time you are at your local plant nursery, take a look at what's available and I doubt if you will be going home alone.