Oh first lily of the valley! From under the snow
You ask for the sun's rays;
What a virgin bliss
In your fragrant purity!
As the first ray of spring is bright!
What dreams descend in him!
How captivating you are, gift
A. A. Fet
As soon as the snow melts here and there, the first spring flowers - white, yellow, pink, blue - stretch towards the light.
These are primroses - amazing plants that have adapted to bloom when there is still no foliage on the trees in the forest, and every warm sunbeam reaches the very ground. In the course of evolution, these plants have developed important adaptations for early spring flowering.
The conditions of sufficient light and moisture are most fully used by small plants - ephemeroids. They are distinguished by their unusual haste, since they are born immediately after the snow melts and develop rapidly, despite the spring coolness. After a week or two, they already bloom, and after another two to three weeks they have fruits with seeds.
At the same time, the plants themselves turn yellow, lie on the ground, and their aboveground part dries up. And in the soil, living underground organs are preserved - some have tubers, others have bulbs, and others have more or less thick rhizomes. These organs serve as a repository of reserve nutrients, mainly starch. It is due to the "building material" stored in advance that stems with leaves and flowers develop so quickly in ephemeroids in spring.
Primroses are often insect pollinated. Their bright flowers are clearly visible when the lower tiers of a leafless forest are sufficiently illuminated. They usually bloom in April (in some warm years - from the end of March) to mid-May. Thus, they all belong to the early spring flora.
The first shoots are breaking through last year's fallen leaves. Bright blue, pink, yellow, white, purple curtains of flowers gently sway under the light spring breeze. These are tender woodlands, sunny yellow anemones, pink and blue flowers of the unclear lungwort, snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, coltsfoot. They are very unpretentious, and in order to grow, they do not need as much warmth and light as other types of flowers. Together with them, the first grass will appear.
In the spring, the garden looks more spacious. The foliage is just unfolding. After the winter monotony, any color spot seems especially bright and festive. A tiny crocus that has made its way from under the snow, the boiling pink lace of flowering almonds and other rosaceous plants excite more than the summer riot of colors.
Often any primroses are called snowdrops. But this is not true. Snowdrops - (genus Galanthus) belong to the Amaryllidaceae family. These are small perennial bulbous plants with two leaves each and bearing a single flower about 2 (up to 3) centimeters long on a peduncle.
The scientific name of the snowdrop comes from the Greek words "gala" - milk and "anthos" - flower, i.e. the flower is milky white. In Russian, it has its own name - made its way out from under the snow. Of course, in a short growing season, and even in cool spring weather, it is impossible to accumulate a large amount of nutrients necessary for the development of tall and powerful stems and large leaves. Therefore, all ephemeroids are small.
Let's consider in more detail some of their types.
It was even called the Christ's rose (Christmas rose), since one of the legends tells that it was first found on the birthday of the Son of God near the barn, where this miraculous event took place.
The name of the genus Helleborus is already found in Pliny. Few plants can match him in terms of the age of his history and the number of legends in which he is mentioned.
Beautiful hellebores, blooming immediately after the snow melts and fully justifying their name, are rarely found in our culture. These low perennials from the buttercup family have leafless stems 30–50 cm high, and sometimes even more, and leathery, shiny, finger-dissected basal leaves on long petioles. The stems end with several drooping flowers. The flowers of hellebores are spectacular due to the very large sepals, of which there are usually five.
Most often they are greenish, but there are also types with yellow-green, pale pink or white sepals. The petals are much smaller than sepals, are funnel-shaped and turned into nectaries. Numerous stamens. Fruits are leaflets, seeds are oblong, black, 4–5 mm long. The rhizome is short, thick, branched with numerous very strong black roots.
About 20 species of the genus Helleborus are known. Almost all species are very polymorphic, they have many beautiful natural varieties. Interspecific hybrids are often found in nature. Since hellebores have been cultivated in Europe for a long time, many of their varieties, hybrids, garden forms and varieties have been obtained in the culture.
Most hellebores grow in Central and Southern Europe and Asia Minor. Most species in the Balkans. Several species are found in the CIS countries - in the Caucasus and the Carpathians.
In the mountain forests of the Caucasus, the Caucasian hellebore (H. caucasicus) grows with pale green or yellow-green, and sometimes almost white sepals with purple dots. Only in Western Transcaucasia does the Abkhaz hellebore (H. abchasicus) grow, characterized by brightly colored sepals - they are dark purple, violet, carmine-red, often speckled with a wide variety of shades. Caucasian hellebore species bloom in natural habitats from December to April and winter with green leaves.
One of the most beautiful and frost-hardy species in Western Europe is the black hellebore (H. niger). In ancient times it was called black hellebore. He has snow-white or white-pink flowers not drooping, up to 8 cm in diameter. Sometimes the flowers are white with a slight pinkish tinge on the outside. The specific name of this hellebore was given because of the black color of the roots. In southern and central Europe, where black hellebore grows wild, it blooms in winter from December to February, and to the north it is grown in cold greenhouses as a forcing crop so that it blooms in time for Christmas.
The ability of hellebores to bloom in the middle of winter during the thaw has always been surprising, they were considered endowed with supernatural powers and miraculous properties. In folk medicine, hellebore was used quite widely. But recently, there have been many articles about its toxicity-related dangers.
Indeed, hellebore is a poisonous plant, cardiac glycosides in its composition, at high doses, can cause a toxic effect. But the poisonousness of the hellebore should not be ranked as spider venoms, arsenic or potassium cyanide. It is no more poisonous than many other herbs that are successfully used in medical practice. But even Paracelsus said that "... in nature everything is poison, nothing is devoid of poisonousness, but the point is only in doses."
Now hellebores in nature have become rare due to increased collection for bouquets and as a result of disruption of the habitats of these plants. All species of hellebores growing on the territory of the former USSR are listed in the Red Data Books. In places of natural growth, the collection of plants for bouquets is prohibited.
On garden plots, hellebores should be grown only as an ornamental plant. For example, in the middle lane in the open ground, Caucasian, Abkhazian, reddish and black hellebores can successfully grow.
In bright sunlight, hellebores grow poorly; for them, you need to choose a slightly shaded area. The soil for them should be moderately moist and sufficiently rich in humus. All types of hellebores require lime to be added to the soil; good drainage is very important for them. After flowering, you can mulch the soil around these plants with compost, well-decomposed peat or leafy soil, this will prevent the soil from drying out and serve as a fertilizer. In dry times, watering will be useful.
Hellebores reproduce by seeds and vegetatively, by dividing the bushes. They can be divided in the spring, immediately after flowering ends, and in August, but after dividing they take a long and difficult time to take root. Hellebore seeds ripen in June, there are always a lot of them, but they quickly crumble. They must be sown in open ground immediately after harvesting to a depth of about 1 cm. In the fall, only individual seedlings may appear, mass seedlings will be in the spring.
Abundant self-seeding is always observed around hellebores. By the end of the first year of life, the plants reach a height of 3-4 cm and form 1-2 leaves. Young seedlings tolerate transplanting well. At the age of three years, even before flowering, they can be planted in a permanent place at a distance of at least 40-50 cm from each other, and in the future, transplantation is already undesirable.
Hellebores bloom in the 4-5th year after sowing, in the middle lane they bloom in April for 3-4 weeks. At the end of flowering, sepals do not fall off, but remain with fruits all summer, and the plants retain their decorative effect for a long time. Hellebores grow until late autumn; in Caucasian species, green leaves are not preserved for the winter. Freezers for a long time, sometimes even up to 40-50 years, can grow in one place without transplanting. With a lack of lime in the soil, the leaves can be damaged by a fungal disease in the form of black spots.
On the garden plot, hellebores can be planted among the trees, by the reservoir, they look good along the paths. You can plant them in separate curtains on the lawn or in combination with other perennials. Blooming hellebores will brighten your garden in early spring, and the beautiful leaves will create a decorative effect until late autumn. You can grow these plants specifically for cutting - their inflorescences stand in water for a long time.
On my site, these beautiful flowers live for about five years. The first attempts to grow a hellebore from the acquired seeds were unsuccessful. I think the seeds were substandard.
Therefore, I bought a grown seedling of black hellebore. In subsequent years, he got used to well in the near-stem circle of a fifty-year-old apple tree and gave excellent self-seeding. At an early age, we planted part of the seedlings in different parts of the garden and determined in what conditions and under what soil the plants feel better. We brought high-moor peat from the nearest forest, and the hellebores responded in unison to the care shown.
And small top dressing every spring with fertilizer "Kemira universal" or "Flower" (just a few granules under a bush), or better with vermicompost (a teaspoon for a plant), provide plants with excellent flowering and good seed ripening. We do not cover the hellebores for the winter, except that we throw snow from the paths onto the "kindergarten" seedlings.
If there is an opportunity to do forcing, then it is best to time the flowering of hellebores for the Christmas holidays. In September, it is necessary to transplant the plants into pots, and when cold weather sets in, transfer them to a cold room. Hellebores should not be kept at temperatures above 8–10 ° C before flowering.
Read the next part of the article: Pulsatilla, lumbago or sleep-grass →
Planting rules and timing depend on the climatic zone. As a rule, the hellebore is planted in the spring, when the weather is more or less warm. So the plant will be able to root well and gain strength before wintering.
When there is still snow in March, and the first flowers are just beginning to break through, the hellebore will delight you with colorful flowering.
This flower will grow well among large trees and shrubs. The fact is that during flowering the trees still stand without foliage, which means they will not give shade.
In summer, large trees will create shade and save the hellebore from the scorching sun. In winter, fallen leaves will cover the roots of the flower and protect the plant from freezing in the cold. Therefore, such a neighborhood is a decisive factor when choosing a site for planting a hellebore.
The flower is very difficult to tolerate a transplant, which should also be taken into account. The place should be permanent, there should be no need to transplant the hellebore. Without a transplant, this plant can grow for more than 10 years.
The technique of planting hellebore seedlings is similar to the technique of planting another long-liver of a garden - a peony. It is best to plant the hellebore in groups to create a truly decorative arrangement.
A step of 35 cm is left between the seedlings so that the bushes can develop calmly. The planting hole is dug about 25X25 cm, but its size mainly depends on the root system of the seedling. The hole should be twice the volume of the rhizomes.
At the bottom of the pit, it is imperative to make a drainage layer, since the hellebore does not tolerate stagnant moisture near the rhizome. If you do not arrange drainage, the roots of the flower will rot. As a drainage, coarse sand is well suited, which is poured onto the bottom of the hole with a layer of at least 5 cm.
10 cm of fertile soil is poured onto the drainage layer from above. You can use compost or a mixture of compost and greenhouse soil. That is, the depth of the planting pit depends on the length of the rhizome and the thickness of the layers.
The seedling is installed in the hole and covered with soil, tamped and watered abundantly. When the water is absorbed, the earth will sag a little - you need to add a little soil so that the roots of the bush are well closed. In the first month after planting, special attention should be paid to watering so that the hellebore takes root well and grows faster.
Below you can read a description of the hellebore plant of the most common species: Abkhazian, Caucasian, black and dark red.
Hellebore abkhaz grows in the forests of Western Transcaucasia. Floral arrows 30 cm high, often bifurcated, purple-red, bear 3-4 large, up to 8 cm in diameter, drooping flowers. Perianth lobes pointed, broadly ovate, black-purple or carmine-red, sometimes speckled. The nectars are green with red stripes. Basal leaves on long petioles, leathery, glabrous, dissected into 5-7 leaves. Leaves of unusual black or purple-green color. Garden forms are known in culture. Blooms in late April, flowering lasts more than a month.
Hellebore Caucasian grows naturally in the humid forests of the Caucasus. The plant is 30-45 cm high.
Pay attention to the photo - the plant has a hellebore of this species on the peduncle up to 3 large, 6-8 cm in diameter, drooping green-yellow-brown flowers:
Blooms in April and May for 3-4 weeks. Leaves on long petioles, leathery, large, dissected into 5-11 lobes. Leaves persist throughout the summer, and sometimes hibernate. The Caucasian hellebore is good in spring bouquets.
Hellebore black grows in Western Europe. It got its name from the dark-colored roots that are used in folk medicine. Plant height up to 30 cm. On the peduncle, 3-4 pure white or pinkish flowers with a diameter of 8-10 cm. Flowers develop unevenly, which lengthens the flowering time. Blooms from early April for 15 days.
There are known varieties of black hellebore:
"Sultan" - with purple flowers.
"Tyrose" - with whites.
"Hans Schmidt" - with pink.
Roseus Superbus - with pink.
Hellebore dark red found in the Carpathians, deciduous forests of Western Ukraine and Western Europe, the Balkans and Asia Minor. Flowers 6-7 cm in diameter, purple-greenish. Peduncles 25-40 cm high. Leaves are basal, leathery, finger-dissected, often overwinter. Blooms in April and May.
Planting hellebore can be done by dividing rhizomes or seeds.
It is easier to plant rhizomes, the plants begin to bloom earlier, but the difficulty is that with this method they do not take root well.
Growing from seeds will take longer, flowering occurs in 3-4 years, but the plants adapt and bloom better. From seeds collected on your site, you can grow only if the hellebore is a species (not hybrid). To grow hybrid varieties, seeds must be purchased from specialized stores.
Only freshly harvested seeds are suitable for planting, because last year's ones have low germination. It is better to sow at the end of June, when they are already ripe and ready for planting.
To prevent the seed from scattering to the ground prematurely, the flowers are tied with gauze, from which they are then removed.
To sow seeds for seedlings, you need to choose a shaded place, fertilize the soil with humus, it should be loose and moist. Embed the seeds by 1-1.5 cm. After planting in June, the seedlings will appear next spring, in March.
When 1-2 pairs of leaves appear on the seedlings, you need to dive them into the flowerbed in a shaded place, where they will grow for 2 years. Then plant the matured seedlings in a permanent place. Only in the third year do they bloom.
When properly planted, the hellebore can grow normally in one place for up to 10 years.
These plants do not like frequent transplants. Therefore, it is better to leave the bushes in one place until they grow strongly.
Then you can dig them up and divide them into several bushes. After landing in a new place, they take root for a long time. Therefore, proper care is needed - regular watering, protection from direct sunlight.
Hellebore care is very simple. In the first 15-20 days after planting, young plants need abundant and frequent soil moisture. In the future, watering will be required in smaller volumes, but regularly. In hot weather, the bushes need to not only be watered periodically, but also to loosen the soil and pull out weeds. Weeds practically do not appear next to the overgrown bushes - dense plantings with large foliage do not allow them to break through.
The hellebore needs additional nutrition in the form of fertilizers, which must be applied twice during the summer season. The first time complex mineral fertilizers are applied, the second time bone meal is introduced into the soil.
In autumn or spring, before flowering, old foliage is removed from the bush. Although the leaf blades of most varieties can overwinter under snow, they can be affected by fungal spotting. The exception is black hellebore. Its leaves retain their decorative appearance in winter.
After flowering, the bush will release fresh shoots. When the flowers wither, the soil near the plantings is mulched with decomposed peat or compost. Mulch is applied in the area around the plants. In addition, this mulch will serve as a good top dressing.
Care: hellebore needs care.
Planting and flowering dates: it is better to plant in summer (in June). Blooms in early spring.
Frost resistance: hellebore belongs to winter-hardy perennial plants.
The history of the hellebore is associated with many legends, and according to one of them, a flower was found near the barn, in which Jesus Christ was born. For this reason, the plant is called the "rose of Christ".
The plant grows naturally in South-Western Europe. The hellebore reaches a height of 20-40 cm. It has a short thick rhizome from which stems grow. The leaves of the hellebore are petiolate, rounded in shape, lobed and pinnately dissected. The leaves of plants that have wintered in the ground become tough and leathery. Depending on the type of hellebore, they can be rooted or cover the stem. The flower of the plant is cup-shaped. It is located at the top of the stem or long peduncle. After the flowering of the plant and the formation of seeds, the stem dies off and a new one grows from the flower bud.
Of the many species of hellebore, the black hellebore and the smelly hellebore are winter-hardy. In height, hybrid varieties of black hellebore reach 30-60 cm. Its flowers are large, 8 cm in diameter. The petals are white on the inside and pinkish on the outside. The plant begins to bloom in early April and continues for 10-12 days. Hybrid varieties of stinking hellebore reach a height of 80 cm. Its stem is covered with leaves that remain under the snow. The flowers are green, bell-shaped in shape.
❀ In the Middle Ages, hellebore was considered a magical plant that protects against witchcraft and evil spirits. Therefore, he was seated at the entrance to residential buildings. In Germany, it is customary to give friends and family a hellebore in a flower pot or as a bouquet for Christmas.
In the gardens of central Russia, mainly hybrid varieties of black hellebore and stinking hellebore are grown (table).
Table. Hybrid hellebore varieties
Flowers up to 11 cm in diameter, bluish-green leaves, basal
Leafy stem, flowers are small, bell-shaped, green, may be red-brown along the edge, leaves are grayish-green
White double flowers with a greenish-pinkish tint
Dwarf plants with large flowers
White semi-double flowers
The flowers are white with pink veins
Hellebores grow well in heavy clay soils, which contain a large amount of organic matter. Neutral soils are preferred. The plant is recommended to be planted in a slightly shaded area, such as between trees and bushes. Some hellebore species can grow in deep shade. The plant needs regular watering. One of the species (stinking hellebore) is drought-resistant.
The soil on which hellebores grow is mulched to retain moisture with rotted peat or compost.
With the onset of autumn frosts, the plant is covered with spruce branches or fallen leaves. It is especially important to cover plants that have multiple stems.
Reproduction and growth features
The hellebore is a durable plant and can grow in one place for several decades. Propagated by seeds and division. The planting of hellebore with the division of an adult plant in central Russia is carried out in early spring, when the root system has not yet begun to function actively, and in autumn. Hellebore bushes are dug up, divided into several parts, dividing the rhizomes. Then they are planted in prepared holes at a distance of 30-40 cm from each other. Over the next 2-3 weeks, the plant is regularly watered abundantly.
It grows very slowly. With the help of seeds, a large number of new plants can be obtained in a shorter time. When multiplying in a different way, the seeds are preliminarily subjected to a two-stage stratification. It is optimal to plant seeds in the soil immediately after ripening. This period falls on the end of June. Next year, in the spring, the plant sprouts well, and some of the seeds will sprout in another year.
In the fall, hellebore seeds are planted in flower pots. Within three months they are kept in a room with a temperature of 20 ° C, and then 1-3 months in a refrigerator at a temperature of 4 ° C. During this time, the seeds in the soil are watered, making sure that they are not affected by mold. A mixture of three parts of peat and one part of sand is used as a soil for growing a hellebore at home. Grown up shoots, which have 2 true leaves, are transplanted at intervals of 20 cm. A place for young plants is chosen with partial shade. After 3-4 years, at the end of summer or at the beginning of autumn, the hellebore is transplanted again to a permanent place. Varietal hellebores bloom the next year.
Several hellebore diseases are known. These include downy mildew, ring spot, anthracnose. Of the pests, the plant suffers from stem and root nematodes, aphids, slugs and snails.
Use in design
Hellebores look good in gardens and parks, stylized as wildlife, among low grass. These plants are used to create rock gardens, rockeries, mixborders, borders. They are planted next to crocuses, primroses, forest trees, peonies, Volzhanka, Kupena, woodruff.
There is a lot of controversy around the use of the Caucasian hellebore for the purpose of losing weight. The plant really allows you to reduce weight due to the removal of toxins and toxins that have accumulated over the years from the body.
However, according to some doctors, the long-term use of the Caucasian hellebore herb for weight loss has specific contraindications due to the fact that along with toxins useful substances necessary for the normal functioning of the body are excreted.
In addition, toxic glycosides tend to accumulate, which can adversely affect the functioning of the cardiovascular system. But the ability to lose weight with the help of preparations based on the Caucasian hellebore is not its main advantage. Plant root preparations: