Soon to be renowned!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Remember to Tip Your Hellebores

I don't really want to get caught up in the whole “who to tip and how much” debate on a simple garden blog; but then I never really wanted to get caught up in a garden blog either, so what I want clearly has little if anything to do with the content or existence of what you are about to read. What can I say? Keys get mashed, topics barreled into, and I'm just kind of dragged along, kicking and choking, behind the rowdy old writing horse I keep thinking I can tame. Which makes you, I guess, some sort of leering spectator who, for some reason or other, enjoys the disgraceful spectacle. I can't say I blame you—everyone enjoys a good train wreck.

All that being (regrettably) said, there is one standout member of the plant community whose reliable and unwavering service is in long-overdue need of some recognition and gratuity. I'm speaking, of course, of the courageous, the honorable, the rugged and downright … um, pretty … sentinels of the garden's Winter Guard: the hellebores.

Sure, everyone is quick to ooh and aah when they're on display at the nursery: up on shelves, in pots; gorgeous, moody colors paraded like caged, exotic animals. Any plant can (and should) look vibrant and healthy in such a controlled environment. What people often forget, however—especially those who do not have plants of their own—is that hellebores provide this thankless service even when turned loose in the most unforgiving soils and neglected garden beds. 

 Helleborus 'Elly' keeping vigilant watch over Fencebroke South. Still resplendent 2 months after her bloom began.

Every year, these dutiful, beautiful warriors surge up through frozen ground in the darkest depths of Winter. They cast their soft radiance across the wasteland as a strong but gentle light, penetrating gloom and despair for weeks into months—however long gardener or passerby is in need of a firm reminder that all the outside does not necessarily suck in the barely-days of year's end.

So I urge you all, the next time you come across one of these lovely stalwarts standing their faithful watch, please offer a small token of your appreciation. My rule of thumb for gratuity is 20% of the hellebore's original purchase price. This usually calculates to about $2-$5, which sum I fold neatly and tuck into the unfurling leaves in late Winter/early Spring. To what ends the hellebores use this bonus, I cannot say, only that the money is usually gone by the next day. Hellebores are a prudent bunch; I suspect they deposit the funds in savings as soon as my back is turned.

If you find yourself in the presence of a worthy hellebore, but short of cash, I am quite certain any small gesture of thanks would be similarly appreciated: a small bow or curtsy; a tip of the cap; a soft but earnest round of applause; a honk of the car horn as you drive past; even a brash high-five would go some ways towards assuring their happy return next Winter when our downtrodden spirits are once again in need of their guiding light.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Everyone Be Quiet and Go Back to Sleep

Please; I am begging.

Fencebroke Promontory is run amok with feather-light sleepers. Fitful bed-thrashers abound; from our beloved (but tending nocturnal) Daisy to the young nectarine out back, which felt warm sun and heard birds chirping and jumped out of bed into full bloom, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, sometime in February.

A mild (to downright non-existent) Winter is to blame. We all tossed and turned through the holidays, saw the dawn's glow on the solstice, and figured we may as well get up if we couldn't sleep. The bulbs put on a pot of coffee. The ornamental plums started frying bacon and roused all the later Spring-blooming trees to an early breakfast. Insomniac perennials, having stayed up all night watching TV with Witch Hazel and its winter-buddies, look ragged and surly. The raspberries partied late into fall, passed out for a couple hours, and woke up hungover. They whipped up a batch of bloody-marys for everyone: it's going to be a long year. The bees look confused. The birds got the worms.

Meanwhile, The lawn is getting a head start on its yearly campaign, seeking to establish an autonomous prairie state; the weeds are staking their stubborn claims; the veggie garden is looking for action and the fruit trees are playing chicken with late frosts. Customers at work are frothing at the mouth, making delirious, sleep-deprived demands for basil, tomatoes, and petunias. Daisy, for her part, has taken to late-night nature documentaries.

It is a boisterous, caffeine-fueled and thoroughly exhausting start to the year. There is a tenuous energy and optimism to the place which threatens, with every mild afternoon, to collapse into a lengthy and catastrophic series of naps.

I, for one, am going back to bed. If you could all keep it down for a couple weeks, I'd greatly appreciate it. I'll never make it to May at this pace.