a french garden

Reflections on nature in a garden in France

Of cold days and Hellebores


Mid morning today the temperature was not above four degrees Centigrade.  Such a quiet garden.  The Viburnum tinus had no visitors.

At least the willow buds (Salix caprea) are protected from the cold by their white, silky fleece.  There is no urgency for them to open as the wild bees will be still safely tucked into their nests in hollow stems or tunnels in the ground or perhaps in our house walls.  The honey bees will be in their hives while the cold prevails.

I think of the nectar and pollen that the willow will provide but for the willow the season will arrive and its pollen will be dispersed and seed will be set irrespective of the bees and other pollinators because it is wind pollinated.  The bees can help a bit but they depend on the willow much more than the willow depends on them.

The Hellebore are providing colour in the cold weather, oblivious to the chill.

My mainstay Hellebore is a dark purple plant.  I inherited several seedlings of them from my sister’s garden in the U.K. and it has taken some years to establish clumps of them around the garden.

She has been generous with her seedlings and whereas I was hoping my deep purple might revert, I think it is relatively stable.  This spotty pink is probably another of her seedlings.

This one has green markings but but is more likely to have come from a later seedling of my sister’s than a natural hybrid.

The Hellebore self-seed so well I thought I might try my hand at pollinating a white Hellebore with a dark one and collecting the resulting seed.  I opened a white bud and liberally rubbed pollen from the dark red Hellebore, closed the bud and tied thick red wool around the flower head.  I get ten out of ten for enthusiasm and enterprise but the poor flower is brown and shows signs of a too rough treatment.  I’ll try again but more gently.

I did treat myself to a named variety last year in the U.K. –  Helleborus Harvington.  Unfortunately, I have just discovered this refers to the Hellebore bred by Hugh Nunn at Harvington and there are many varieties of beautiful Hellebore that he has bred.  So I still do not have a named variety.

Luckily, I love all my Hellebore.  I do not mind that for the most part they hang their heads and conceal the beautiful interiors.

The bees care little about the position of the flower heads either.

I took the photographs of the bees on the Hellebore on 2 February and you can see the ivory pollen she has gathered.   The Hellebore are generous to the bees and also provide them with nectar.  I, in my turn, am rewarded with lots of Hellebore seedlings that I lift and tend in seed trays over the summer until I find a suitable place for them.

I am finding them very useful in the garden as they can be put under the shade of deciduous trees and will take being baked in the summer when they are established.

Hey girls!  I really am trying to make sure there is enough for everyone.

Author: afrenchgarden

Born in Scotland I have lived in England, Iran, USA and Greece. The house and land was bought twelve years ago in fulfilment of the dream of living in France that my Francophile husband nurtured. We had spent frequent holidays in France touring the more northerly parts and enjoying the food, scenery, architecture and of course gardens. However, we felt that to retire in France and enjoy a more clement climate than we currently had in Aberdeen we would need to find somewhere south of the river Loire but not too south to make returning to visit the UK onerous. The year 2000 saw us buying our house and setting it up to receive us and the family on holidays. The garden was more a field and we were helped by my son to remove the fencing that had separated the previous owners’ goats, sheep and chickens. We did inherit some lovely old trees and decided to plant more fruit trees that would survive and mature with the minimum of care until we took up permanent residence. The move took place in 2006 and the love hate relation with the “garden” started. There was so much to do in the house that there was little energy left for the hard tasks in the garden. It was very much a slow process and a steep learning curve. Expenditures have been kept to a minimum. The majority of the plants have been cuttings and I try to gather seeds wherever I can. The fruit trees have all been bought but we have tender hearts and cannot resist the little unloved shrub at a discount price and take it as a matter of honour to nurse it back to health. This year I have launched my Blog hoping to reach out to other gardeners in other countries. My aim is to make a garden for people to enjoy, providing shady and sunny spots with plants that enjoy living in this area with its limestone based subsoil and low rainfall in a warm summer. Exchanging ideas and exploring mutual problems will enrich my experience trying to form my French garden.

38 thoughts on “Of cold days and Hellebores

  1. Hellebores are so much prettier everywhere else! We grew them in the nursery, and landscapers bought them, but I sometimes wonder where they go and how the perform. They do not look very good in the nursery.


    • I think they would have to be in flower to be attractive to someone unfamiliar with them. I find them great work horses in the garden, covering very difficult spots in summer and brightening up areas in the early, duller months. Amelia

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What lovely rich and generous hellebores. Mine are hanging on in the cold snap too!


  3. I can’t wait to see willows and hellebores, but it will still be a while here.


  4. I love hellebores, but unfortunately my garden is too young for me to grow them. It is certainly cold enough here in the winter, but I don’t have enough shade for them during the long hot summer. The photos of your hellebores are very beautiful.


    • That is the good thing about Hellebore, I plant them where other things have not survived. They will take drought and hot sun but you will need some watering if it is really dry in the first years before they get established. Amelia


  5. Very lovely Hellebores ! I love them as well, because we have flowers so early in winter though we already have daffodils this year wich is unusual…


  6. We shared the icy weather this weekend and it continues today! My Teucrium lacks its usual visitors today but I’m sure they’ll be back soon. Your Hellebores are gorgeous, I so wish I could grow them here but my ground is too free-draining for them; if I could find a plant that wasn’t too expensive I might try it in a pot that could be placed somewhere cooler and shadier in summer.


  7. When I hand pollinate something, I make a little baggie out of bridal veil to cover it! It lets the moisture pass through so the flower doesn’t rot, but prevents insects from pollinating the flower.


  8. It’s cold here too but the hellebores don’t mind. I love them and have seas of self seeded beauties as well as my named ones.


  9. Beautiful shot of the willow bud and the hellebores. And the bees!


  10. I only have one lonely hellebore flower in bloom. So much freezing weather here. You are way ahead of me. The willow photo is lovely.


  11. I don’t mind what colour they are Amelia, I like them all. If you are looking for some specials when over here a good place to start is at John Massey’s nursery.( Just google his-name) and if you happen to be here when he opens his garden for charity then that would be a double bonus.


  12. A local garden to me has an annual Hellebores Day – http://www.bosvigo.com/special-hellebore-day

    You’re welcome to stay with me if you ever want to go!


  13. I thought that female and male flowers were on separate trees for the willow so unless the trees are close by wont insects be important for pollination, or am I underestimating how much pollen there is on the wind?


    • You are quite correct that the flowers are on different trees and the insects do help with the pollination but there is a huge amount of pollen produced which accounts for a percentage of wind pollination with willows. What I wanted to say is that the trees can do without the pollinators but the pollinators rely heavily on the willows early in the season. Amelia


  14. #2 is spectacular! If David Attenborough said it was a very rare creature found in a Sumatran jungle, I would accept that, no question… RH


  15. I’m glad you like the willow buds. We had to cut a few small branches that were catching our heads a while back so I put them in a jug on the dining room table and watched the buds open indoors, some are now covered in pollen. The photograph photograph was a bud on the tree. Amelia


  16. Lovely Hellebores, Amelia. The really are a staple for early bees aren’t they? And very prolific with seeds and then seedlings if the small rodents don’t eat them all first!
    Best wishes


  17. Hellebores… I have done two blogs recently about wild ones, the Stinking Hellebore and the Green Hellebore. In one of them I commented that the garden types are a wishy washy colour a bit like Farrow and Ball paints. However some of your photos do show them in a better light. I think I will amend my comments and put a link on my blog to this one of yours.


  18. Perhaps I’m just lucky that I started off with the very dark hellebore because none of the colours are wishy washy. I do like a white one that has the rim of the white with a thin line of purple around the edge but I’d call that subtle and I like some of the spots that surprise you inside other lighter ones. I like the ones with green too. Amelia


  19. This is a wonderful selection of hellebores. Every year I think I should collect a couple more, and then I get distracted by the more attention-grabbing flowers which follow.


    • You could try checking for seedlings around your hellebore. The seedlings will be coming up from last year’s seed. I lift mine into seed trays as I would lose most of the little seedlings during the summer if I left them to fend for themselves. In the seed trays I can look after them. Who knows you might create a beautiful hybrid. Amelia


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s