At this time of year, I am prone to Hellebore Envy. I see a slate grey hellebore and I want it. I see a bright yellow hellebore with plum freckles and I want it. I see a warm apricot-pink hellebore…you get the idea.
I have one hellebore in my garden. It is the common-or-garden type, just a mid-pink Helleborus x hybridus (previously known as Helleborus orientalis). I don’t know the variety because we inherited it with the garden. No freckles, no double pretty frills of petals, just a standard hellebore.
Yesterday, I was stalking around with my camera, and I thought I should re-photograph this hellebore, because I had posted about it in the bud-stage about a month ago (you can see the post about New Growth here).
Hellebores are notoriously shy. They keep their heads down. They don’t shout, or sing, or crow, or draw attention to themselves in any way.
If you stand over them, this is what you are likely to see. Now I look closely, those are rather lovely tones of rose and plum, aren’t they?
If you crouch down, the flower looks like this:
Which is rather charming. A graceful sort of lamp-shade, with gently rippled edging. The guard leaves are a sophisticated shade of smoky plum, don’t you think? On this photo I also love the deep rose blur behind from the other flowers on the plant.
When I get my head right into the clump, I start to appreciate the veining on the petals.
It is like when you really look closely at your own fingerprint. All that structure, holding us together, quietly transporting water and nutrients around, keeping stuff in, keeping stuff out, protecting us from harm. It is miraculous, isn’t it?
The stems too have quiet striations. Is this pattern essential? Or just delightful frippery?
(If you are so inclined, please do admire the bokeh of lightest lime and lemon, lilac and maroon in the background. That was a happy accident).
This might seem a little intrusive, but without the next few pictures, there would be no post. I asked the hellebore permission, and he said that he was happy to oblige, being somewhat undervalued in this garden. He hopes that this will change from now on.
I lifted up one of the flowers.
Now you see the modesty of this wonderful flower. What hidden depths and complexities it is hiding! If I may for a moment get botanical?
The long thin plum tongues right at the centre are the female part of the flower, the carpels. They are waiting for their dusting of pollen. The white lozenges are the male part of the flower, the stamens. I find their organisation rather delightful. They are all neatly huddled and supportive at the centre, and getting rather fizzy and excited around the edges. The outermost anthers have a stubble of pollen, just ready to be let loose.
It is so exciting in there that a little aphid has come for a closer look!
Which allows us to admire another part of the flower, the nectaries. These are the green-yellow lobster-claws to the left in the picture above. The nectaries are modified petals. Nectaries are sometimes referred to as ‘honey leaves’. They produce delicious sticky syrup, which insects find irresistible. The insect visits the flower and accidentally dusts itself with pollen. It will inadvertently transfer the pollen to the carpel of the next flower it visits.
Just so that you can properly admire the crazy orbit of this inner circle, let’s turn the flower over completely and see it face up. From the outside in: neatly folded pockets of nectaries in green, fizzling cream stamens in various stages of excitement, and slightly blurry carpels at the core.
The pink petals are not actually petals. They are sepals. They will turn green once the flower is fertilised. The ovaries at the base of the carpels will swell up with seeds. Then one fortuitous day, the swollen pods will burst forth with the next generation of hellebores.
I get excited by plants on a daily basis, but even I surprised myself here. Never NEVER will I be ho-hum about this hellebore again. Sitting here now looking at this photo, I even see that this flower has just the hint of blue-lilac! And freckles!
I hope that you enjoy my little pop of wonder. Are there any flowers that have surprised you recently? Have you been tempted to peer closer?
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