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Discover Lenten rose for the shade garden
Early spring is a wonderful time, as the garden and landscape start to wake from the winter season. One of the many wonderful spring flowering plants is the Lenten rose, an old favorite that you may not often see.
I was recently in Union County for the New Albany Home and Garden Show and got to see much of the state in bloom as I drove. Wisteria, refined and shrub-like or scrambling over everything, is putting on a purple display. Eastern redbud presented flowers ranging from pale pink to magenta on naked branches, and flowering dogwoods were showing off along the edges of wooded areas.
Along the coast, the southern indica azaleas, with their huge blooms of pinks and purples, were becoming prominent. But I saw the Lenten rose while walking and enjoying the New Albany wildflower garden of my friends Sherra and Ken.
Colonies of Lenten rose announced the arrival of spring with their nodding green flowers, some with pink tinges. Lenten rose is a reliable, flowering perennial. It is long-lived and fairly easy to grow in the shade garden.
Lenten rose belongs to the family of hellebores. One of the most common hellebores is Helleborus orientalis, or Lenten rose. The original cup-shaped flowers colors range from a pale green to creamy white. Many hybrids are available with flower colors ranging from pink to dark burgundy, and many have dark speckles.
The flower colors of Lenten rose are actually provided by sepals, structures that resemble petals. The actual flowers are inconspicuous. The sepals remain long after pollination has occurred, often until the next year.
The only care Lenten rose usually requires is that you cut back the dead and fading foliage to keep the plant neat. You need to divide the plant only every few years, if at all.
As long as the soil is rich in organic matter and consistently moist and well drained, the foliage can remained attractive well into the summer months. Once established, Lenten rose is somewhat drought tolerant, but if the weather turns really dry, be sure to provide supplemental irrigation.
Before you plant Lenten rose, be sure to have your garden soil tested; it prefers a neutral or slightly alkaline pH. Plant Lenten rose with the crown even with the surrounding soil, and leave 2 to 3 feet between plants. Feed early in the spring with a sprinkling of slow-release fertilizer.
Lenten rose readily reseeds. If you have a named variety, be sure to remove these seedlings, as they will not be true from seed. You can move the seedlings to other areas of the shade garden or give them to gardening friends and neighbors to enjoy.
The Perennial Plant Association named Lenten rose the Perennial Plant of the Year in 2005.
If you have never grown Lenten rose, make this the year you try this tough and dependable plant. There are hellebores that will thrive in most climatic conditions across Mississippi, even on the Gulf coast.