by Pamela DiMuzio
Hardy, pest-free, beautiful Hellebores are among the first blooms of Spring, hence their common name Lenten Roses. These perennial members of the buttercup family ranunculaceae ask so little of us, yet give so much. They thrive in humous-rich soil, preferring shade to part-shade, and are hardy to Zone 4. Hybridizers continually expand the range of color and form of hellebores, now available in single and double blooms and a rainbow of colors from white and palest cream and pink through brighter shades of rose, red ,plum and purple to near-black. Some are stippled or bear fine-lined shading of color in their petals, or picot edges which gradually shift over their lengthy bloom time. It is wonderful to watch the colors evolve, and they will last two months at least in the garden. Collecting hellebores is addictive, as there will always be just one more you cannot resist. It is a treat to snip some hellebores just below the blossom and float them in a shallow bowl, creating a kaleidoscope of color and pattern for your table and showing off the markings and shading to advantage since the blooms are pendant on their stems in the garden. Perhaps you have a spot atop a wall or ledge that would provide viewing from below. When the blossoms fade at last, the glossy umbrella shaped foliage of the Lenten Rose remains attractive pretty nearly year-round. In the early spring, just cut any stalks whose leaves look worn, and stand back to await the emergence of flowering stalks and the incredible show they will provide. Hellebores form clumps, and if allowed to go to seed there will be offspring to share with other gardeners, though not necessarily duplicating the parent plant. Other spring bloomers such as wood anemone and hepatica will happily nestle between hellebores. In my garden primroses and crocus are lovely companions. Even in February I see the glossy, leathery parasols in my hellebore bed, a joyful hint of the pleasures to come.
Rodent-Proof Bulb Plantings
by Pamela DiMuzio
Two methods that ensure you will get to enjoy your crocuses and tulips
Nothing is more frustrating than planting crocuses or tulips in the fall, dreaming of the beauty to unfold in spring, only to find you have created a buffet for rodents. Many of us have had this bitter experience, or at the very least have found crocuses coming up where we never put them because a rodent thought better to tuck them in somewhere else. Crocuses can be planted securely by using the black plastic pots we all accumulate from greenhouse perennial purchases. These seem to multiply like rabbits in our garage, but now have a new purpose in my garden. First, fill a pot with a couple of inches of sand to ensure good drainage, then add potting soil up to about two inches from the top of the pot. Next, place crocus bulbs in the pot and fill to the rim with more potting soil. Cut a square of Hardware Cloth, which is a metal mesh like fine-gauge chicken wire, available in rolls at garden centers, big enough to cover the top of the pot and fold the edges down around the rim. Voila! a rodent proof container. Next dig a hole large enough to accommodate the pot and deep enough to sink the bulbs to the correct planting depth. Place the pot in its place, and cover over with garden soil to complete the job. Tulips can be secured in wire boxes you can easily make using Hardware Cloth. You will need to cut a length sufficient to fold into a box shape deep enough to hold the tulip bulbs you are planting. A shirt-size gift box can be used as a pattern if you unfold the corners and flatten it. Once you have done this a time or two, you will know what to do to fold the sides up, form corners, and fold the wire again to form the top of your box. Next, dig a hole where you want to place the tulips, wide and deep enough to hold your tulip box and deep enough to plant at the correct depth. Place your tulip box in the prepared place and cover with garden soil, being careful not to leave air pockets. Ready-made tulip boxes are available from White Flower Farm and perhaps other suppliers but they are very dear compared with the price of a roll of this versatile small mesh wire. You will need some wire cutters or tin snips to cut with, and will want to protect your fingers from the cut wires with garden gloves. Oh, how I enjoyed the view of an industrious chipmunk sniffing about and making futile efforts to dig the bounty of bulbs I planted last fall. My bulbs bloomed magnificently right on cue in the spring; results well worth the effort.
In Love with Lavender
by Becky Goodspeed
Here is my confession. I am a lavender freak! I don’t just like lavender, I adore it!! My daughter always says, “But Mom, it’s just a plant”. No, it certainly is NOT just a plant, it is heaven and earth and all that good stuff! Author’s note: You will notice my chosen picture in our member picture directory is of me crouching down in a lavender field. Enough said.
Lavender probably originally came from Persia and the Canary Islands, but of course now it is so well known in Provence, France. The Greeks and Romans used it for its scenting properties; indeed in Rome women used the flowers to perfume bathing water and to sweeten their tongues. During the Great Plague, travelers used to carry a bouquet of lavender around with them to protect themselves against the disease.
Lavender has a calming effect and is good to use for anxiety or nervousness. It is slightly hypnotic and is used as a sleep aide. Being antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, lavender essential oil effectively treats infections of the respiratory system. It is reputed to help with digestive problems, be a diuretic, and to act as an insect repellen
It is amazing to learn that lavender grows very well in Michigan. Who knew we were the perfect climate? (Except for polar vortex years!) We have a number of lavender farms that are lovely to visit.
Cherry Point Farm and Market in Shelby. This one has a labyrinth and a farm market along with a small café.
Harbor View Lavender Farm on Old Mission peninsula north of Traverse City. This one is almost all the way up the peninsula and has a small gift shop with hand crafted products. They will let you wander among the lavender plants. They also have a shop in downtown Traverse City.
Indigo Lavender Farm in Imlay City
Lavender Hill Farm in Boyne City. You can walk through the lavender. The barn is on a hill and you can sit and gaze out over the fields below. Just beautiful! They have events such as Lunching in Lavender, concerts and more. Their gift shop is wonderful with a wide variety of products including lavender salt, pepper, sugar and syrup. Lavender lemonade, lavender shortbread, need I say more
The Secret Garden at the Brys Estate on Old Mission peninsula. This one is my favorite! It is about halfway up the peninsula. It is beyond gorgeous. You can get lavender shortbread cookies in the shape of the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan as well as lemon lavender white chocolate chip ice cream made by Moomers! Their products are very, very high quality and they have a robust website and will ship products to you. You will swoon at the scent. I use the lotion, shower cleanser, hair cleanser, and liquid hand soap. Mmmmmmmm.
Lavender Hill Farm of Niles Beautiful spread out plants over hilly land. Blackface sheep walk around the farm and sometimes they have Plein Art painters with their easels sprinkled throughout. Their bee hives are nearby and of course the bees are buzzing all around. You may cut your own lavender and they have a nice shop with hand crafted products.
Pinnebog Creek Lavender Farm in Bad Axe
Shade of Lavender Farm in Mattawan
Summerhouse Lavender Farm in Fennville