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Garden Ramblings, Issue #004
December 15, 2004
Monthly musings on the garden scene

*********************************************************** If you prefer, you can view this month's issue online where you can also subscribe if this copy has been forwarded to you by a friend. ***********************************************************

In this issue:

- Letter from the Editor
- Plant of the month
- From the papers
- Pick of the scented blooms
- Special offers
- Useful resources




Welcome to the December issue of Garden Ramblings your monthly window on what's going on in the world of gardening.

The "Plant of the Month" is the Christmas Rose (helleborus niger).

For the scented blooms section it is Part 2 of fragrant shrubs which covers those that flower in the spring.

Because Christmas is only days away there are not many special offers this month, but I have found a few to mention.

There just two items in the resources section but I think that you will find them both useful.

Enjoy the issue.




Plant of the Month

Name: Christmas Rose (helleborus niger).

Description: A hardy perennial with evergreen leaves which are leathery and dark green. Saucer-shaped white flowers up to two inches across are produced from December to March.

Origin: Native to Central and Southern Europe.

Cultivation: Hellebores prefer a partially shaded position in deep, but well drained, moist soil. Propagate by dividing the roots in March. Can be grown from seeds harvested when ripe in June/July. Seedlings in a nursery bed will be ready for planting out in their permanent positions by fall of the following year and should flower when they are two or three years old.

Pests and diseases: Generally trouble free although the leaves are prone to leaf spot. No chemical cure available so pick off and dispose of all affected leaves.

Folklore: According to Pliny, the great seer Melampus used the ancestor of Helleborus niger to cure the madness of King Proteus' daughters and other Greek women who roamed the mountains and deserts thinking they were cows. As Hellebores do yield a toxic alkaloid, they were often used by the Greeks to poison the wells of their enemies. Cattle were once blessed with black hellebore to protect them against malign influences and evil spells, and apparently a ritual was involved in digging it up. Another piece of folklore tells how if you scatter powdered black hellebore root at your feet as you walk, you will become invisible.



From the papers

Some gardening gift ideas for the 'green' people in your life

"We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give. Each year as the holidays approach I try to remember Winston Churchill's words of wisdom: It's easy to buy something for a gardener, but it takes far more time to find the right gift. My first choice is always the homemade gift. But when you buy, make it that perfect thing." So says Maureen Gilmer and you can read the rest of her article here.


A Spoonful of Sugar?

No, a spoonful of bee pollen and another of honey every day, a short walk and a bit of gardening. Those were the secrets behind the long life of Fred Hale, the world's oldest man, who has died in New York state just short of his 114th birthday. Read more...


It's Springtime downunder

For those of us who are now heading into the depths of winter here's something to lift your spirits and look forward to in a few months time.

"With good rains at the right time, gardens this Spring are simply blooming! Crabapple, Weigela and Iris blooms are the best they have been for five years. Roses are shaping up to add to this floriferous abundance as the weather warms up." Read more...


Elegant winter landscape a tricky proposition

"Winter's inexorable chill has altered the complexion of beds and borders, forcing us to accept a perspective that includes spare lines and stark silhouettes. Without the promise of reliable snow cover to hide the inevitable bare spots, gardeners in Western Oregon have the sometimes unenviable task of creating landscapes that retain grace and elegance through winter's cold, dreary and often extremely rainy periods" says Sarah Robertson who then goes on to give some helpful advice on plants and shrubs that can help to solve the problem. Read more...


The Endearing Pansy

"Few plants can brighten the winter landscape like the pansy. From fall until late spring, pansies grace our southern gardens with their multicolored flowers. A cool season annual, pansies are cold-hardy and carefree, making them the most popular annual grown in Georgia." Read more...


Don't Prune it, Move it.

"Now, the ugly season approaches and I fear gardeners are about to go after their hydrangeas with the pruning shears again.

It's understandable that people don't like the way most hydrangeas look through the winter and early spring. The mopheads especially look quite dreary with some leaves hanging on, spent blooms turning brown and stems mostly bare. It is not a pretty sight. An exception to this scene is the oak-leaf hydrangea, which I think looks quite nice through the winter." Read more...



Fragrant Shrubs - Part 2.

Rhododendron atlanticum is an azalea that is native to North America. It is a deciduous shrub that grows up to 3 feet high with a spread of 4-5 feet. Narrow funnel-shaped flowers up to one and a half inches across are borne in clusters of four to ten in April and May. The flowers are white or pale pink and very fragrant.

Crataegus monogyna (common hawthorn)is a European native. If allowed it will grow to a height of 25-30 feet but can be pruned to keep it to a manageable size. Clusters, 2-3 inches across, of white, heavily scented flowers smother the branches in May.

Magnolia stellata is a native of Japan. This is a slow-growing deciduous tree reaching a height of 8-10 feet. The white, star-shaped, fragrant flowers are 3-4 inches across and appear in March and April.

Osmanthus delavayi, a native of China, is an evergreen bush which grows up to eight feet high with a similar spread. It is covered in April and May with white flowers of a penetrating sweetness.

Pieris formosa "Forrestii", also a native of China, is an evergreen shrub which grows up to between eight and ten feet high. The white flowers are of the lily-of-the-valley shape borne in hanging panicles, and they have a very pleasant, though not too strong, scent.

Syringa vulgaris "Blue Hyacinth", the common lilac, is a native of Eastern Europe and grows to a height of between eight and twelve feet. Fragrant flowers, mauve in bud, opening to lavender-blue, are spaced out on the panicles as in a single hyancinth. Blooms in early May.

Wisteria sinensis is a native of China. A deciduous climbing shrub which can grow to a height of 100 feet. It is a strong grower that needs heavy pruning to keep it under control. The pendulous racemes of flowers, laburnum in fashion, but purple in color, grow up to a foot in length and the scent is very sweet.



Special Offers

With Christmas only days away there are few bargains around. As I mentioned last month I have found that the best way to keep on top of any offers is to subscribe to the newsletters of firms like Brecks, Direct Gardening, Dutch Gardens, Gardeners Supply Co, Krupps and Yardiac. Gardeners Supply is having a Secret Santa Sale with up to 75% off selected items. Most of the offers from the other firms have passed their closing dates.

With Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Allposters there are selective reductions but I do not expect to see any real bargains until after the holiday.


Useful Resources is a website that covers all aspects of wildlife and the natural world. I mention it here because it includes a section on wildflowers and native plants with a native plant finder organised on a state by state basis. It also has an online design facility enabling you to plan your own backyard with native plants suitable for your local area. is allied to the National Wildlife Federation which covers similar topics and together these two sites can supply you with all the information that you need to create a backyard habitat full of native wildflowers and/or plants to attract birds, butterflies and other wildlife.



Please feel free to pass on this newsletter to your gardening friends. Do let me have your feedback and suggestions to [email protected]


That's all until next month but in the meantime you can always look at my Blog.

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