The last couple of fragmented weeks (mostly due to a bad case of the lurgies) have been mostly spent tidying the borders, a job that would usually happen pre-Christmas at the towers. In my own garden I prefer to leave this job until the early Spring for two reasons:
1) At home I’m a shameless fair weather gardener. I have to work in rain, wind and cold in the week so I’m damned if I’ll do it at the weekend.
2) It gives the bugs and beasties more hiding places, and the seeds provide food for the birds.
At work, at least in the public gardens, tidiness is a higher priority than at home.
As part of this border tidying I cut off all our Oriental Hellebores’ leaves. It seems pretty drastic but it’s an annual job which improves the Hellebore display greatly. By this time of year the old leaves tend to be scruffy and often infected with Hellebore Black Spot. Cutting the old leaves off close to the base of the plant (careful of the emerging flower heads!) gives a better view of the flowers as they raise their heads and also keeps the Black Spot to a minimum.
At the Tower we have a fertile clay soil and the plants are in a position where they naturally recieve a mulch of autumn leaves every year. If I were growing them on a less fertile soil where they didn’t naturally get that annual mulch I would give them some garden compost or leaf mould to help them cope with this annual hack-back.
If you ever looked at a gardening magazine in late winter and wondered why the pictured gardens’ Hellebore flowers are all more prominent and neat, this is why. I did this job on Tuesday and then when I returned from lurgy related time-off on the Friday the pale green flower stems had already made progress, pushing themselves up out of the rich leafy mulch.