Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Helleborus Seedlings in January!

I have made a rather embarrassing new gardener mistake. Like the wren that raises the cuckoo, those seedlings below are weeds. I'm not sure which ones... perhaps garlic mustard? But the observation stands that they are some pretty hardy weeds to be coming up in the middle of winter!

Sadly, I didn't get a single hellebore seedling in the dozens of pots I had out on the porch. It could be that the seed was too old... it was purchased in early August. I already submitted my order in for fresh seed this season at Winterwoods. I did end up getting three precious seedlings from a few reserved seeds that I put in coffee filters in the fridge. I nearly forgot about them... I'm unsure how long the radicles were languishing on that moist filter. It is heartening that this method works. However, all three seedlings failed to get free of their seed caps, and my attempts at helping them had no effect (tweezers, misting, droplets of spit!). All three put up sets of true leaves, but they seem to be a bit stunted... we'll see how they do. But at least I KNOW that they are true helleborus seedlings and not pretenders!

After a spell of particularly chilling subzero weather, it suddenly dawned on me that the bit of green in the pots on the porch was no ordinary weed. The helleborus has germinated! There are several vigorous looking seedlings in the 4-inch Helleborus Foetidus pots. No signs of life in any of the other flats, at least not yet.

Then, I remembered the 1 gallon pot where I had put the extra seed (red/purple x. Hybridus). I had left it under a bush by the front porch. Sure enough, under 3 inches of snow and a bunch of fallen leaves there were several tiny seedlings!

What an incredible plant-- the fact that its tiny, tender seedlings don't freeze solid seems to defy laws of nature.

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