2013 Early Spring Surprise and Alert

One of my favorite garden writers, Alan Lacy, once said:  “Gardening is complicated, and prejudice simplifies it enormously.”

Very true — as a general rule. But when circumstances change, it may complicate things again. As for example, while I have recently spoken unkindly about hellebores (See Blog post of March 3, 2012, ‘Hellebores and Naming Names”), it hasn’t always been that way. Years ago, I was seduced by the beauty of the glorious doubles and planted a goodly selection.

Not one had the decency to show up for the second season. Maybe voles got them, maybe not. ( According to the garden literature, hellebores are toxic and anathema to rodents. But then again, voles don’t read — too busy eating.) No matter. I was disenchanted with double hellebores and never replaced the plants.

Well imagine my surprise a week ago — the first time the weather permitted an inspection of the garden — when I discovered an exquisite double hellebore in full bloom, in exactly the same area as the previous no-shows. While the ID tag is gone — along with my memory —  I think it’s one of the doubles I originally planted in 2009, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Elegance White’.

copyright 1013  --  Lois Sheinfeld

copyright 2013 — Lois Sheinfeld

Moreover, after the horrific, ruinous winter, the hellebore was a joy to behold. See what I mean? Circumstances can change the way you feel about plants.

But there’s no ambivalence about a recent alert from Cornell University’s Department of Plant Pathology:  In the Fall of 2012, warm, wet, humid conditions led to the rapid spread of the destructive new boxwood blight, caused by the fungus Calonectria pseudonaviculata. Equally troubling is the discovery that Pachysandra is a host for the fungus. Ditto for Sarcococca, according to a report from the UK. Cornell suggests gardeners look for alternatives to boxwood.

And finally, I was baffled by a New York Times article about a brain wave pattern study from Scotland that found “going for a walk in a green space or just sitting, or even viewing green spaces….is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.” (April 2, 2013, p.D5). Did the Brits really need a new-age brain study to prove what we gardeners have always known?

In fact, decades ago, it was a British plantswoman, Gertrude Jekyll, who said it best:  “The first purpose of a garden is to be a place of quiet beauty such as will give delight to the eye and repose and refreshment to the mind.” Amen!