Because hellebore… they come in all shapes and colors and have a growing fan base worldwide. Just use the hashtag #orientalhellebore on Instagram and you will see what I mean. Above is a selection of my own hellebore collection, including variants of oriental hellebore as well as a self-seeded stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus). The latter is proof that my seeds for these are indeed viable, it just took a whole 4 years . Hellebore flowers are bee-loved by pollinators and provide an early nectar source. So they do not only look nice but also serve an important purpose in the garden.
The fronds of the male fern fade during the winter time and leave behind a flaky root-stock, which grows bigger every year and turns black at the center, whereas new fern fronds sprout at the periphery. I like to think, as the years pass, the root begins to look like the scaly back of a dragon hiding beneath the earth, whereas the fronds form the dragon’s wings…
…and one may even spot the dragon’s head lurking in the soil.
The root has been used until recent times as an anthelminthic to expel tape worms. This is supposedly due to flavaspidic acid, a Phloroglucinol derivate, which is contained in the glandular hairs. The root stock and leaf stalks are deadly poisonous, especially in young plants. Overdosage may result in severe poisoning and death.
Banded grove snails (Cepaea nemoralis) overwintered between withered fern fronds. Snails and slugs are a gardener’s nightmare, though I’d like to think these banded snails are the “good ones” as opposed to the brown Spanish slug (which I myself battle by the means of sharp iron tools and worse).
However, not only gardeners of modern times are struggling in the fight against terrestrial molluscs, but also medieval knights went to battle the creatures in full armor, as a recent article at the Smithonian.com website elucidates utterly strange and still unexplained depictions in medieval manuscripts:
And as if that wouldn’t be enough, snails occur also as a metaphor for death and withering in the biblical Psalm 58:8
As a snail which melteth, let every one of them pass away: like the untimely birth of a woman, that they may not see the sun.
Today I have sown the remainder of the mandrake seeds, which had been primed months ago. They were kept in wet paper towels and placed in the fridge for weeks, then taken out and placed in fresh wet paper towels. I’ve been hoping for them to germinate but thus far no sign of life. Yesterday I took them out, cleaned them (all seeds sunk in water, which is a sign they are still viable) and placed in soil today. In addition I have sown the same amount of unprimed mandrake seeds for comparison. I have one tray on my window bench at room temperature, but may move it to the basement, where it has cooler temps. The other tray is in the green-house.
Besides Mandrake I have also sown biennial henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) from fresh ripe seeds.
Now below some impression of the flowering green and the garden, from August 13-15 ’15
Last evening both my “black datura” as well as toloache opened their first flowers for this years. The black devil’s trumpet (Datura metel var. fastuosa) is grown from seeds from Malta and has really big, double filled flowers, which smell absolutely enchanting.
There goes the beautiful “moon flower” (Datura inoxia), flower about to open. Comes back year after year, always a sweet joy.
A fine addition: Indian Belladonna (Atropa acuminata) has slightly smaller, more cone like and edged fruits compared to her European sister. Flowers are a touch darker, velvet brownish purple. Grown from seed. I’m happy to have this lovely sister of the native deadly nightshade.
One of my favorite ‘ghost’ flowers: Yellow Monkshood (Aconitum lamarckii), returns every year and makes for a nice contrast beside the Blue Monkshood (Aconitum napellus), both of which are in bloom now.
The bright red berries of Bittersweet Nightshade (Solanum dulcamara) are tempting to taste, but poisonous! They still make a beautiful contrast to the pale yellow flowers of Aconite etc. The stems contain cortisone-like substances and are used in herbal medicine. They are harvested in autumn or spring.
Through the tunnel of the poison green, illuminated by the red sun…
As the sun sets and bathes the poison green in red, the day in the garden ends. I started my work at noon and finished at dusk. It felt like only a second had passed.