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Coping with the Cold

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The scene in the orchard on Brigit’s day… Feb 1st. Flowering was at its peak at the end of January, but the predicted cold weather put paid to plans for an early viewing day.

The dramatic collapse of the flowering plants is not terminal; despite their Mediterranean origins hybrid hellebores are actually very hardy. (Down to USDA Hardiness Zone 4, so plants may just be accommodating the current polar vortex).

Their ancestral species are typically found at high altitudes, exposed to late snowfall, and the defence mechanism evolved there has been inherited by the garden hybrids.

As the ambient temperature climbs above freezing, the stems gradually uncurl. Or in a long cold spell, the plants just stay hunkered down.

The longer-stemmed green-flowered hellebore species which come from less extreme climates, lack this adaptation. Frogswell’s thriving stock of the apple-green helleborus sternii, for example, was completely knocked out by the long freeze of 2010-2011.


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