Hellebore Time!

This is a time of year that I really look forward to. The garden is beginning to waken from winter and the first flowers of the year are starting to open. These early flowers are an invitation to come outside and have a look around to see what new delights have appeared.

Amongst these, the hellebores are the flowers that demand attention first. After the tiny winter flowers of mahonia, Viburnum bodnantense and winter jasmine, their big, showy blooms bring an exotic feel to borders that have been starved of colour for a few months.

White and pink hellebore flowers

I find the variations in hellebore flowers fascinating. There are so many different flowers and new ones being bred all the time – all with beautiful colours and markings on the petals.

The flower forms can vary too. On this one the nectaries are very large and a deep red. (The nectaries are the tube-like shapes, arranged in a ring at the base of the petals. In fact, these nectaries are reckoned to have evolved from the hellebore’s original petals, while what we think of as the petals are actually sepals. The sepals last for far longer than petals can, meaning that hellebores have very long-lasting flowers.)

These are such pretty flowers (and good for early bees) that I would love to have lots more. Unfortunately, they can be quite expensive to buy, but occasionally I’m lucky enough to find one at a price that’s easier to afford. For the pleasure they give, they’re worth it!

White and pink hellebore flower

Unexpected Sparkle

The sparkling drops of melted frost on the seed head of Stipa gigantea (golden oats) above caught my attention one morning. I had gone outside knowing that any frost had already melted and expecting it too be too late to find any interesting photographs. When I saw this, however, I realised that I was wrong. There was still plenty to see and photograph.

You may have already seen several of the photographs from that morning in an earlier post: https://annmackay.blog/2022/01/30/after-the-frost/

Both of these photographs are of the Stipa gigantea. I was tempted to keep the more sparkly top one as a possible Christmas ‘nature’s decoration’ photo, but decided to hope for more frost before the end of next December. The need to find something to post right now was stronger!

The garden keeps me going even in the winter. It gives me new things to look at and to explore with my camera. It stops me from getting bored and helps me to look forward to the future. Sometimes it even brings a bit of sparkle into my life. Hope your life is a bit sparkly too!

Water drops on Stipa gigantea (golden oats)
Water drops on Stipa gigantea (golden oats)

Roses for Love

As it’s Valentine’s Day tomorrow, it felt like a good excuse to show images of roses. They are a bit more colourful than most of the pictures I’ve posted over the last few weeks. Of course, the top rose is still in keeping with my recent wintry theme.

This rose (Zepherine Drouhin) had been caught by an early frost after managing a few flowers at the start of November a couple of years ago. There have been no frosty roses this year because our early winter was much milder.

I don’t have many roses in the garden, so I’m looking forward to being able to see and photograph some in the gardens I visit this year. (And I’ll enjoy having a sniff at them too!) Being already halfway through February makes it feel as if the days of summer, full of colour and scents and sunshine, are not so far away.

My roses here aren’t the traditional Valentine’s red, but I hope they’ll bring a smile. And I hope that you’ll enjoy a happy Valentine’s Day!

Rose 'Handel'
Climbing rose ‘Handel’

Last of the Frost?

Some more frosty pictures for today, but these were all taken a few weeks ago. It looks as if these may be the last frost pictures for this winter because the nights are not so cold now.

February has brought a feeling that, for us, the worst of winter is over. And I know how much I may be tempting fate with that statement! Here’s hoping we don’t get another ‘Beast from the East’ bringing especially wintry weather in the next month or two.

Frosted Campanula Seedheads
Frosted seedheads – probably from a campanula.

We haven’t had very much frost this year, although it has been cold enough on many nights to create a layer of ice on our half-finished pond. There’s been no snow either – in fact snow is starting to be a novelty whenever we do get any. Next time we get a really hard winter it will probably come as a shock, with us being unprepared to deal with it.

The last few days have given me the impression that spring is not so far away. I’m always glad to see the end of January, because I know that February is often mild enough to make working in the garden enjoyable again. There are the first signs of new life – early spring hellebore buds are appearing and there are tiny, tightly-curled new leaves on the honeysuckle.

Frosted Blackberry Leaves
Blackberry ‘Oregon Thornless’ leaves edged with frost.

Soon it will be time to get ready for spring. I’m never very organised when it comes to sowing seeds. Even so, I usually manage to grow something that will give me a new subject to photograph. More important this year, though, will be moving plants around and renovating borders in the garden. There’s plenty to look forward to, and hopefully lots of changes for the better through the year.

Frosted eryngium
The frosted seedheads of an eryngium.