Hellebores False and True (Stillwater Diary)

False Hellebores, Groverkill, Stone Ridge, NY, April 2014

False Hellebores, Groverkill, Stone Ridge, NY, April 2014

Our first spring in Stone Ridge, Sally, who’d long lived part-time in Accord, on the Stonykill, identified the glowing green, pleated leaves poking out of muddy areas around the Groverkill–false hellebores.

Some years the false hellebores extend their sturdy stems upward, above the leaves, and the slender spikes sprout small flowers, which look like candle holders on a birthday cake. Pale green, the blooms are all but invisible, even from a short distance.  I’ve been unable to determine when there will be flowers, they certainly don’t happen annually, nor reliably  every second year, and if the hellebores favor one type of winter over another, their preference is mysterious.  No spikes yet–maybe the plants are just balky, the flowering delayed in this slow spring.

A few years ago we bought three nursery-grown hellebores–a different animal entirely than the wild namesake–and planted them in partial shade near the house.  They were called something like Ice Breaker.  Deer (and voles) reputedly don’t have a taste for them and another virtue is they bloom early.

This spring one plant has disappeared entirely.  One has just a handful of veined dark (ever)green leaves, low to the ground, if you know where to look amid the pine needles and oak leaves.  And the third, while not thriving, two weeks ago had groups of leaves and a stem with buds.  I don’t know who ate most of the leaves but I’m grateful he/she spared the flowers, which now are opening green and will fade to white.

Hellebore, Stone Ridge, NY, April 2014

Hellebore, Stone Ridge, NY, April 2014

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