The old year tottered on its way worn, tired and weary. Now another whole new year is given to us on loan. What will the world choose to do with it? With great hope we look to the leaders of the world to choose cautiously and wisely.
This is the time of year we embrace the stillness that follows the holidays with open arms and mittened hands. The reflective calm is therapy for our souls. It’s almost as though nature too casts a spell upon our crystallized days. Rather than a holiday letdown let’s perceive January as a pampering respite. While nature rests, let’s do things that relax and slow us down.
These days when we oldsters must stay indoors, let’s do something that is fun and interesting. This time of year, the frigid blasts of another Iowa winter has us burrowing deep in our furry robes and fuzzy blankets. It’s a time to snuggle under cashmere throws with a good book; to sip raspberry cocoa. Dr. John Dilly, an Iowa clinical psychologist, says winter’s short days do trigger the hibernation response. All the snow, ice and now the below zero nights, certainly has convinced me to stay in and look for something to read about, that will bring spring a bit closer in my thoughts.
I am thinking of the Christmas rose and decide I should learn more about it. Though it doesn’t bloom here at Christmas it is a very early bloomer in the early spring. In states just south of us it does bloom during the winter. Hellebore is the common name of a genus of plants within the buttercup family. The European black hellebore, or Helleborus Niger, features snowy white blooms.
The American hellebore comprise plants of an entirely different genus, Veratrum of an entirely different family, the lily family. Hellebores have always been a favorite perennial because they bloom early and then look great for the majority of the year. They are also now available in a variety of stunning colors from deep purple to sunny yellow and even a pale green, chartreuse and coral color. Many gardeners prefer the Lenten rose, Helleborus orientalis. This variety boasts beautiful plants with evergreen leaves. Another favorite is the Corsican hellebore. Its whiskery leaves and pale green flowers beam all winter and into the spring, at which time its stems can be snipped off and new shoots will replace them.
Several varieties of hellebores make excellent container plants. These varieties have less extensive root systems. One wonderful perk about growing hellebores is that the plants do not need to be dug up and divided every few years. Instead, once they are quite at home in the garden, they will continue to bloom year after year without a lot of fuss and hassle. Country gardeners in particular enjoy planting hellebores since their large green leaves are not the least bit appetizing to deer.
In the arboretum, the hellebore plants are located in the wildflower garden as it blooms at about the same time as the Hepaticas in the early spring.
Read about them and see if you might consider planting some in your garden next season to have early spring surprises blooming in the future.
My favorite remains the Christmas rose, even though in Iowa it doesn’t usually bloom for Christmas. If in a sheltered spot during a mild winter its blossoms may arch up through the snow to remind us of the Christmas spirit in our hearts.
Marilyn Kutzli is a retired school teacher who wrote a newspaper column for many years and now lives at Prairie Hills Senior living. At 90 years of age, she still enjoys writing.