Spring is as much about finding little surprises and managing change in the garden as it is about admiring whatever happens to be in bloom. The hellebores are a prime example. Once I began blowing back the mat of winter leaves and twigs at the bottom of our yard, I kept finding tiny hellebore seedlings growing in random spots through the moss.
These little hellebores, which look a bit like glossy green clover on steroids, with their three-lobed seed leaves, will each grow into a hardy evergreen plant that eventually stretches to about 2 feet across. Our mature, blooming hellebores have been covered in bees and other pollinating insects on warmish days because their nectar and pollen are so abundant and good. But the places where these babies had taken root will be mown again before May.
So, it has been on my ‘to do’ list for a while now to dig and transplant each of the seedlings growing in harm’s way. It takes a while to consider the possibilities, you know, and decide where to use them. And then it takes another while to have my garden knife and a container in hand when I’m in that remotest part of the garden. And finally, all of the stars aligned yesterday afternoon and I had an ounce of energy left to move them all.
It seems the shady areas grow a bit larger each year, so I had some prime spots available that were once planted in sun loving perennials, and now need something fresh that will thrive in the shade. It takes about two to three years for a seedling hellebore to bloom, and generally four years for it to reach its mature size. So, moving seedlings pays off in time. Like planting a tree, it is an investment in the future.
Two little scarlet buckeye seedlings growing in pots leafed out last week, and I’ve been admiring them and trying to decide whether to plant them or donate them to a plant sale next month. I decided that a scarlet buckeye tree would work well growing near those little hellebore babies, and popped it into the soft earth.
Scarlet buckeye is a favorite with hummingbirds when it blooms in April. It produces long stems covered in bright red flowers that last for several weeks. Its new leaves emerge coppery, and it produces gigantic seeds by late summer. Since the seeds and leaves are poisonous, few animals will disturb it.
We’ve had wonderful rain this past week. Everything is well-watered, and the earth is soft and easy to dig. With more rain on the way, it is the prime time to plant. I love clearing a small hole with the tip of my hori-hori knife and popping a small transplant into place. It feels good to make the least disturbance possible when planting.
And that is exactly how I planted a half dozen seedling mahonia shrubs near the newest fern garden yesterday. They will quickly grow into a beautiful, evergreen clump that blooms with bright yellow flowers each winter.
There are many more young trees and shrubs waiting for their own bit of ground. When our Edgeworthia began to decline from too much rain last summer, I struck several cuttings. Most seem to have survived and taken root. I found a stray Forsythia branch my partner had pruned and left behind in January and cut it down for cuttings, too. They are beginning to bloom in their pot. I also have a collection of rooting cuttings from the Japanese quince. They will eventually sink their new roots around that little buckeye tree. It is always good to see the seeds we plant germinate and the cuttings begin to grow.
Gardening is all about managing change. Whether the change is a tree that has fallen, a shrub that has failed, or seedlings growing in unexpected places; we pick up the threads of the story and weave them into something fresh and new. Like playing music, gardening is a fourth dimensional art that plays out over time.
The beauty is found in how this moment transforms into the next, and the next after that. When we can let go of labeling things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ and just work with what ‘is’ in this moment; we find ways to transform everything into something of beauty and value.
With appreciation to The Propagator, who hosts Six on Saturday each week.
You might enjoy my new series of posts, Plants I Love That Deer Ignore. Eleven groups of plants are featured thus far, and the list will continue to grow.