28 January 2012

Footprints and hellebores

A frosty morning this morning: -1C or so as Iz and I headed out on our walk. The grass in the field was slightly crunchy and we walked in "the winking glitter of a frosty dawn". 

The eastern sky was glowing red and that light warmed the pale bark on the small birch trees that run along the edge of the field. I don't know if the frost heightens the scent of everything, but there was one happy schnauzer with her nose to the ground this morning...
Morning birch and a happy schnauzer
We've had a warm winter this year--in stark contrast to the last couple of years. To be honest I enjoyed the frosty air this morning: it feels right. And the frost accentuates textures beautifully and democratically: not differentiating at all between the dreaded Ranunculus repens and the lovely cow parsley, both growing well on the banks of our local stream (the very same stream that flooded a shopping centre only a few months ago...) 
Democratic frost
At home in my garden, the hellebores are starting to bloom. I have some of the standard Helleborus foetidus which is great if you want lots of hellebores (it seeds everywhere) and good foliage. Its flowers are less than thrilling though.

But have a look at this beauty, which is in my back garden. 
Here it is as it should be seen--head bent, blue sky behind. 
Head bent, sky behind
And here it is as we humble gardeners normally see it, as we hunker down, place a hand behind its head, and gently turn it skyward so we can see its hidden treasures.
Turning heads
And here's one from the front garden, the frost still on its petals - I enjoy having this one in the front as the low winter sun lights up its burgundy petals from behind when we glance out at it from our front room. I know... you don't read about back-lit hellebores very often, but it's worth thinking about when planting some of the darker varieties. 
Frosted petals
I'll end with an idea I robbed from the illustrious Dan Pearson: to appreciate the hellebore blooms without damp knees or a sore back, I put some of them in a shallow bowl: works nicely I think!
Bowled over

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