I recently read Gayla Trail’s post about her fear of growing hellebores. I was surprised to learn that many people seem to feel trepidation about growing these plants. They are pricey, certainly, but for me they have been so easy as to be almost ridiculous. I have given mine absolutely no coddling and while my soil isn’t the worst in the world, I think, it isn’t going to win any “Best Tilth” awards, either.
I am conducting a little experiment, then, to see just how tough a hellebore can be. My only expectation is that at least one of these clumps should thrive in spite of me.
I dug up a few clumps of seedlings with my beloved garden knife. Note the exemplary growing conditions.
The experiment subjects.
Yes, they’re growing in mostly gravel. They do not require this kind of drainage.
- Dig a hole the same size as the transplant (no larger).
- Plop it into the hole (do not amend soil).
- Mash with foot.
- Do not water.
- Do not feed.
- Do not tend.
- Return periodically to assess progress or demise.
Test Plot A: The kids’ playhouse. Just above the concrete block on the left of the photo is a window from which the children pretend to sell ice cream. It gets plenty of foot traffic. This is also the landing site for the bucket on a pulley, which hoists things to the fort’s lookout level. The soil here has never been amended, unless you count the occasional covering with a wood chip mulch to cut down on the mud. This site is in deep shade and grass can’t grow here. Assuming similar conditions to neighboring undeveloped garden spaces, the pH here is 4.8.
Test Plot B: West-facing gravel scree atop the water meter. This site receives neither foot traffic nor love. The most human attention it gets is a scowl from me as I leave the driveway, thinking “I have got to do something about that space.” May occasionally receive attention from dogs being walked. There are lots of neighborhood dogs.
Test Plot C: South-facing, against the concrete foundation. The soil here is completely untended, rock-solid clay. I expect it to receive some foot traffic as it is in the access path for any people and equipment who will be working on the addition to our house this summer.
Test plot D: No-man’s land behind the shed. Test Subject D, slightly more mature than its counterparts, will live above ground, simply in the clod in which it was dug up. This is in a shady site behind my shed, where large pots and leftover bricks are stored.
Planting technique, Test Subject A. Stab a hole in the ground with knife.
Planting technique, Test Subject A: Drop in seedlings.
Test Subject A: Smush hole closed with toe.
Planting technique, Test Subject B: Scratch a hole in the gravel. Note the soil depth.
Planting technique, Test Subject B: Kick gravel back over seedlings.
Planting technique, Test Subject C: Pierce soil with knife as with previous subjects. Drop seedlings in.
Planting technique, Test Subject C: Kick dirt over hole and walk away.
Planting technique, Test Subject D: Drop it and run.
These test plantings were established and photos taken on March 28, 2013. We’ll check in periodically and see how they fare.