In spring, pretty much the whole town steps out to promenade. This isn’t a huge crowd — we’re a tiny town. But without the burden of lawn mowing (yet), everyone takes a walk. And the only place to safely accomplish that feat in a town seemingly allergic to sidewalks is the straightaway in front of my house.
So I get my fair share of foot traffic. Generally, foot traffic is confined to people on a mission (joggers, dog walkers and baby carriages), but even the farmers indulge on particularly pristine days (but when the conditions are apparently too muddy to venture into the fields — this is a hard-working lot). We have some fairly savvy farmers in town. They definitely know their way around tomatoes and could tell me a thing or two about eggplants. But hellebores took them by surprise. They were prodded to walk down the driveway and pull me out of the crotches of spiraeas (if anyone has a faster method of getting last autumn’s leaves out of the spiraeas, I’m all ears) to register their disbelief. For sure, hellebores do seem fairly unlikely. They are bigger, faster, and more equipped with bells and whistles than most spring fare. Before anything else gathers momentum (or courage) to come forth — prior to the primroses by a long shot and nose-to-nose alongside the snowdrops — my ‘Candy Love’ rushes into bloom. Don’t you love a precocious flower?
Right about now, you’re up to your eyeballs in hellebores. I bet hellebores have been accosting you from all sides. They are the new Easter plant and I applaud that switch to something realistic and benign (compared to Calceolaria, for example, that invariably infects the houseplants with white flies). You’re sated with hellebores, but I just wanted to call ‘Candy Love’ to your attention. Because it “reads” in a garden. My farmer neighbors never would have noticed the darker hellebores on the other side of the drive from a distance. ‘Candy Love’ can be seen from the street. In a good way.
Compared to some of the other spring fare (I’m thinking ‘King Alfred’ daffodils and forsythias), ‘Candy Love’ is fairly toned down on the color spectrum. It’s discrete. Makes the blazing yellow competition look like a parade of tricked out tarts, really. And it’s tidy, it displays its blossoms in a nice, tight bouquet and the foliage always looks so good that I hate to cut it back. (Most experts advocate for chopping back the foliage in spring. But I ask you — check out these photos, don’t the leaves add to the package?) And have you ever wondered — what are all those ants about? Ever check out a flower close-up?
Who knows why I was the last holdout on hellebores. I think it had something to do with the deer. Hellebores are supposedly not on a deer’s menu. But at one point, there was a little tug-of-war in which I planted hellebores and the deer (or something) ripped them out (and dragged them around the yard — geez) time after time. I figured they were registering their disgust for anyone with the audacity to plant something that isn’t an hors d’oeuvre. Has anyone else experienced this little act of civil disobedience?
Apparently, the deer (or whatever) have issued a truce. The hellebores have been allowed to stay (thank you, Powers that Be). And I’ve been planting all types. But not only is ‘Candy Love’ the most succinct, flower-dense package, it also reads from afar for maximum impact when you can’t really get into the garden. Compared to the itty bitty tidbit bulbs that open first, it’s upscale in size. All this said, I wish that I could suggest a knock-out perennial partnership. The hellebores began their show on an empty stage. But now, Corydalis solida ‘Beth Evans’ (Lisa — is this the corydalis you have blooming in your garden?) from Brent & Becky’s Bulbs (www.brentandbeckysbulbs.com) and pulmonaria are joining in the act. Still, it’s the ‘Candy Love’ that’s stealing the show. The first show-off of the year is always the most memorable. Don’t you think?
Yes! It’s Beth Evans! Thanks for finding the name for me, Tovah. I checked brent and becky’s website and the picture matches what is beautifully blooming in my backyard. They also have another corydalis which is purple looking and the leaves very dark. mmm…might have to order more! Aren’t Hellebores lovely? I have a friend in my garden club who must have 25-30 hellebores in her shade garden- all kinds, all colors, just wonderfully graceful and officially spring! I have nothing but sun on my property, so it would not support a hellebore for long. Although the sun is not very hot in the springtime and I used to have a few pulmonaria before my patio area got dug up and they were doing quite nicely. In fact, my dicentra’s are coming up now and they do alright. Wait a minute, maybe I can grow hellebores… Tovah, you’re making me think! 🙂
Lucky you with all that sun. But you know, I feel as though hellebores can tolerate shade but endure sun as well. Mine do both. After the initial deer scare, I started peppering them in. How do you feel about the parrot green hybrids? In a pot they’re totally Wow! In the ground they sort of blend in. But your potpourri of colors might be just the ticket…Now you’re making me think…
This is the first time I’ve ever blogged, so forgive me if I’m not doing this correctly.
I recently read your book on Tasha Tudor (it was excellent!!) that was handed down to me by my gardening mentor and another wonderful CT gardener, Janet Hafner (the 1st certified CT Master Gardner, who passed away recently). Among the abundance of fantastic information provided within the book is a tidbit that I would like to try: you noted that Tasha rolled her sweet peas in “nitrogen-fixing bacteria” before planting. Is this something I can make or purchase and, if the latter, do you have any suggestions for where I might find the product, which I’ve read is “rhizobia.” thanks
Thank you so, so much. I love sweet peas but since moving to Connecticut I have not had luck with them. I thought I might try that tip!!!
Gardening is like a family, isn’t it, Trish? And we honor those who came before. Check out my blog today on http://www.gardeninggonewild.com. I miss Tasha SO MUCH. She was such an individual — there’s no one like her on earth. On the sweet peas – nitrogen-fixing bacteria definitely increases germination — you can get it at most farm feed stores sold as “seed inoculant”. I’ve been told that sweet peas have a low germination rate. My newest trick is “nicking” the seed coat with a snip with a pair of scissors to bruise the outer coat before rolling it in the seed inoculant (wear gloves). It’s time consuming, but works like a charm.
Hi Tovah, I just can’t get enough of Helleborus, they hold their blooms so long. Love our ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Ivory Prince’, will have to add ‘Candy Love’ to the mix. Our wish list grows (pun intended) with every one of your posts!
All the catalogs mention that ‘Ivory Prince’ is very similar to ‘Candy Love’ in color, Paula. But what I really like best about ‘Candy Love’ is the dense bouquet of blossoms held just above the foliage rather than a smattering of blossoms on taller stems.
I love everything about hellebores. Their foliage, the subtle coloring of their flowers at a time when you’re surrounded by taxi cab yellow, the bashful way many of them hold their heads, and especially their ability to show up at work early and continue right through quitting time. They have to be on my top 5 list of favorite plants and we give them a special spot flanking the shady entrance to the front of our house. I went absolutely nuts when, in February’s Gardens Illustrated, I saw all the new colors that breeder Alan Postill was creating. And, now I want ‘Candy Love’. Alas, so many new hellebores and so little shade! And, before you ask…yes I’m nuts about pulmonarias, too!–Joe
Funny you should mention pulmonarias, Joe — I just received the McCue Gardens list and was thumbing through the lungworts. Have you ever worked with the white flowering ‘Sissinghurst White’? Normally, I wouldn’t go for a white version of a plant with scrumptious blue blossoms. But combined with the white spotted foliage…I’m tempted. Last year was blessedly mildew-free. But have you been plagued by mildew issues?
Hi Tovah: I just read about ‘Sissinghurst White.’ Realizing I sound a little like an ad-man for Gardens Illustrated, John Hoyland has a nice article on pulmonarias in the March edition. He talks about ‘Sissinghurst White’ there, along with over a dozen other hybrids. I’m anxious to try SW because I think you could use it with some of the other lungworts to produce some very nice color combinations, as long as you can coordinate the bloom times. And, John says it has the clearest white flowers of any lungwort out there. It sure looks beautiful in the photograph. We haven’t had any mildew issues with our pulmonarias here at Juniper Hill but I think that’s the result of dumb luck in initially finding the right home for them. Most of ours are planted in dappled shade under a few young white birches in a spot that’s never overly moist. Brunneras, hostas, and rodgersias are also thriving there.
And of course, brunneras are also powdery mildew magnets. Do you have any of white-leaved versions? They seem to succumb to mildew early in the season. The speckled versions are troubled later (if at all). Ah to be in England, now that spring is here…
Regarding peas and the use of innoculant, when I last sowed peas (2 yrs ago), I bought a small bag of innoculant at a garden center and placed the contents into a zip lock bag. I then emptied the packages of peas I wanted to sow the next day. They included the edible podded snow peas and sugar snap peas. I mixed them all up, added a few drops of water to make sure the innoculant attached to the peas, and zipped the bag. I planted them all the next day in my raised bed. It took the length (10′) and a foot wide swath to empty the whole bag of pea seeds as I always sowed thickly. I hammered in 6′ tomato stakes at either end and several in between. Then, with a large staple gun, I stapled trellis netting from stake to stake to make a pea fence. The peas I planted grew at least 6′ tall and some shorter, but they all appreciated the leg up from the trellis netting. They were just wonderful and most peas never made it to the kitchen!
Interestingly, the bags of inoculant used to suggest just sprinkling it on top of the seed before covering it over. Now they suggest making a “slurry” — like the method you suggest, Lisa. By the way, for everyone that is following this tangent — Lisa’s talking about edible peas here. The original comment spoke of sweet peas. Sweet peas are NOT EDIBLE, they are grown for the flowers. But both enjoy the same sowing method of an inoculant jumpstart.
Tovah~ My garden club finalized our July bus trip to Linden Hill Gardens. We are listed on his website under Events (Backmountainbloomers.org) visiting July 29. I have also registered for your terrarium workshop there on October 2. Lisa 🙂
Wonderful Lisa, so I’ll meet you in person. Can’t wait! In the meantime, I’ve been bursting to tell you about a new event in NJ, probably not too far from you — Earthly Delights. It’s a huge plant/antique vendor sale on May 21 check out the website at http://www.earthlydelightsnj.com. It’s at the incredible garden of my friend Andrea Filippone in Pottersville and it’s the NJ version of the much storied Trade Secrets show in our area. I am heartbroken that I can’t go this year — I’m lecturing at the 1st annual CT Book Festival that day.
Tovah (and Trish)~ I’m sorry, I read too fast I guess. Missed the “sweet” part of the sweet pea conversation. oops.
But really, Lisa — both the edible peas and the sweet peas require the same inoculant sequence so you’re right on target. I only mentioned the difference because a local restaurant has a dish on their menu called “Sweet Pea Soup”. What they mean is that their pea soup has a sweetener in it. I always worry that customers will think that they can eat their sweet peas!
I’d rather know that sweet peas are not edible than to make a mistake with them though. Glad you cleared that up for me. I know right where Pottersville, NJ is, Tovah! I used to pass it on 206South on my way to visit my Aunt in Perth Amboy. To get to Pottersville is about 2 1/2 maybe 3 hour drive for me with one pit stop. I live near Wilkes-Barre, PA and would make that trip (plus another hour) to get to my Aunt’s place maybe twice a year. Andrea’s garden and this event sounds like a wonderful place~ I would go but already have plans that weekend. Too bad you’ll miss your Trade Secrets date- I’ve heard about that and it looks like something great to look forward to for sure.
It’s a busy weekend all around. Looks like Andrea is going to hold this annually — so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to hit it next year. She’s also got a great line up of lecturers for the date. All in all with lecturers, vendors, and location = Earthly Delights is a fantasy.
Tovah, I’ve had Sissinghurst White Pulmonaria growing in my west coast garden for many years now. It’s completly trouble free, one of the best of the Lungworts. Googled your site looking for info on ‘Candy Love’ Hellebore, which are being offered for sale at a local big box store. Was so excited to find you! Used to follow your photographs with Tasha Tudor. The Pulmonarias with ‘rubra’ in their ancestry are first to flower. Their soft rose flower color would complement ‘Candy Love’ beautifully.
Thank you Darragh, and welcome to the blog! Lucky you to find a trove of ‘Candy Love’ in an unexpected place. Mine are not the first to flower of the hellebores, but they’re definitely more noticeable against the prevailing brown of March (quickly greening up this year). But what a good idea! I just discovered the pink pulmonarias last year and you are so on target with the arrival date — I thought the blues were speedy, but I was making haste to rake off ‘Raspberry Splash’ yesterday to reveal its blossoms. Many thanks about the Tasha Tudor note — I miss her immensely, especially in spring. But somehow, I feel that she’s still with us when the tulips begin to sprout…