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Lentan rose loves place in the shade

Hellebore is a great water-wise choice for hard-to-plant spot: dry shade

Hellabore
Hellebores offer long-lasting blooms in dry shade. (Photo: Debbie Arrington)

This “rose” blooms where (and when) others won’t. It flowers in dry shade – in late winter.

On March 2, the first day of Lent, my Lenten roses were in full flower. In shades from near black to creamy pale green, those interesting blooms actually arrived way early; they’ve been opening for most of February. But they’re so long lasting, they’ll still be around for Easter.

“Lenten rose” is the nickname for hellebore, a wonderful shade-loving perennial. Despite the nickname, they’re only a distant relative of roses. They’re actually close cousins to ranunculus.

Native to Southeastern Europe, hellebores are well adapted to our Mediterranean climate. Once established, they can get by with only twice-monthly irrigation, which makes them a great pick for water-wise landscapes.

Naturally compact, they love dry filtered shade, such as under trees. Hellebores can tolerate some sun, too; just not full Sacramento summer sun.

Their large, leathery leaves stay close to the ground, usually under 1 foot tall. In winter, they send up flower stalks with large bell-like blooms.

These plants are extremely low maintenance. Unlike roses, Lenten roses need no pruning. Just snip off any unattractive leaves in summer.

Another plus for hellebores: Deer don’t like them. Hellebores also can tolerate colder temperatures, making them ideal for foothill gardens.

New hybrids have expanded the range of hellebore colors and petal patterns, from pure white to darkest purple black. Most varieties fade to shades of pink or purple.

Two hybrid hellebores have been featured by the UC Davis Arboretum as part of its water-wise plant collections: Pink Frost ( Helleborus X ballardiae ‘Coseh 710’ ) and Mahogany Snow ( Helleborus X ballardiae ‘Coseh 930’ ).

Pink Frost has striking cream-colored flowers with pretty pink edges that last for weeks in the garden. Mahogany Snow is similar with creamy petals reversed with dark pink. Those varieties and others can be seen in the arboretum’s Terrace Garden and Ruth Risdon Storer Garden.

Corsican hellebores, which have bright green flowers, are featured in the Arboretum’s White Flower Garden near the gazebo.

See them in bloom now. For more information, visit the arboretum’s website: https://arboretum.ucdavis.edu .


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Dig In: Garden checklist for week of Feb. 5

Make the most of sunny days and get winter tasks done:

* This is the last chance to spray fruit trees before they bloom. Treat peach and nectarine trees with copper-based fungicide. Spray apricot trees at bud swell to prevent brown rot. Apply horticultural oil to control scale, mites and aphids on fruit trees soon after a rain. But remember: Oils need at least 24 hours to dry to be effective. Don’t spray during foggy weather or when rain is forecast.

* Feed spring-blooming shrubs and fall-planted perennials with slow-release fertilizer. Feed mature trees and shrubs after spring growth starts.

* Finish pruning roses and deciduous trees.

* Remove aphids from blooming bulbs with a strong spray of water or insecticidal soap.

* Fertilize strawberries and asparagus.

* Transplant or direct-seed several flowers, including snapdragon, candytuft, lilies, astilbe, larkspur, Shasta and painted daisies, stocks, bleeding heart and coral bells.

* In the vegetable garden, plant Jerusalem artichoke tubers, and strawberry and rhubarb roots.

* Transplant cabbage and its close cousins – broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts – as well as lettuce (both loose leaf and head).

* Plant artichokes, asparagus and horseradish from root divisions.

* Plant potatoes from tubers and onions from sets (small bulbs). The onions will sprout quickly and can be used as green onions in March.

* From seed, plant beets, chard, lettuce, mustard, peas, radishes and turnips.

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