Inside And Outside

Picture 2446Oh my, what a day! Yesterday afternoon the weather here in mid-coast Maine was glorious. The kind of day that begs you to be outdoors. At Fernwood, it was an inside-outside type of day. The morning was spent indoors giving all the wood floors a good scrub ( mud season, ya know….doggie tracks….boot tracks…you get the picture). The afternoon was spent giving the chicken coop a thorough spring cleaning. The hens hightail it for their outdoor run while I scrape and scrub their henhouse floor…..worried perhaps that they may get tossed into a wheelbarrow of debris. Chickens have a tendency to dramatize any unusual activity. They watch and cluck with interest, ”watcha doin, watcha doin, watcha doin”, they seem to say. Then, when their coop and nesting boxes are squeaky clean and freshly laundered with cedar shavings, in they come, scratching and investigating my work. They seem quite pleased with the job.
Picture 2457Back inside, when I stop for some tea and a quick snack, I am immediately enveloped by the smell of lilies. Rick had brought a large bouquet home for me earlier in the week and they are just now opening. Aaah, delicious. Outdoors, one lonely hellebore ( Helleborus niger) has come into bloom. More to follow, certainly, but each and every blossom is accounted for at this time of year, and no less appreciated than the fragrant and showy lilies that grace the table.

Christmas Rose

Picture 499Helleborus niger, also known as the Christmas rose, is one of my favorites of the species of hellebores. With its dark green leathery leaves that last through the winter, and the outward facing large white flowers that are easy to see and are unobstructed by foliage, it is one of the plants in the shade garden that I eagerly await its bloom. One story of the Christmas rose is that a shepherdess named Madelon wanted to give a gift to to the baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Being poor she had nothing to give. She searched for flowers to offer, but the winter was cold and harsh. While crying about not having anything to offer, an angel appeared and touched the moist spot on the ground her tears had created. A plant with beautiful white flowers grew that she could give to the Christ child. It was also once known as the Oracle flower. Twelve Hellebore niger flower buds were put in water on Christmas night, each representing a month of the year. Supposedly the weather could be forecasted as a closed bud would mean bad weather, an open one good weather. Though called the Christmas rose, it does not bloom at that time of year here. In more southerly climates it can bloom anytime from late fall to spring. For us it is usually in April or sometimes March, as the snows melt and it can push its flowers up through it. This native of the European alps prefers to grow in shade to part shade that provides well drained but moist fertile soil. Our most robust plants are under deciduous trees, allowing them to get more sun in the spring and fall without it being too hot for them. A more neutral soil makes for stronger plants that also tend to bloom heavier. It can be slow to establish and mature, but when it does, can be covered with dozens of those showy white flowers that are tinted with some pink. The sepals eventually turn all pink as the flower fades. Helleborus niger also makes for a good cut flower. Personally, I prefer to leave them on the plant where, like most winter and cold weather flowers, will last a long time. Picture 397
With the warm Christmas day weather we’ve had, we were able to photograph the foliage of Helleborus niger that was, up until today, under snow cover. As you can see, still evergreen. Our Christmas was a wonderful day here, making and eating food together, sharing in time and conversation, and relaxing with family. By mid afternoon, we took a walk with the dogs, the sun shining and the temperature almost 50 degrees. So much for our white Christmas. Happy Holidays to everyone, we hope this day was enjoyable and relaxing for everyone. Blessings from us to all!Picture 392<Picture 395<