The Inner Circle

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?

If you would like a regular pop of wonder, you might like to ‘Follow’ The Mindful Gardener. Life is short and we must squish as much joy into it as time allows. If you would like to receive email notification when I publish a new post (tulips! peonies! roses!) then click on the big ‘Follow’ button at the bottom of this post.

45 Comments Add yours

  1. “Hellebores are notoriously shy” – I like that comment! They are tricky to get a decent photo aren’t they?!

    1. I did a lot of crouching down, trying not to trample the planting around!

      1. A few years ago, when I was buying my DSLR, there was a Nikon camera which had a flip out screen which could be angled to capture these awkward shots. At the time I thought I’d never need it …… 🙂

      2. Mine has one of those, and I used it for the first time with the snowdrops!

  2. Emma Cownie says:

    Your close up are stunning – really made me appreciate the details of this flower.

    1. Me too! They are so intricate, aren’t they?

  3. Katie says:

    Hellebores are one of my favorite garden flowers. Ours aren’t blooming yet but I’ve been watching the buds push up. Clearly you need more of them!

    1. I discovered another one yesterday – I thought I had accidentally dug it up, but I just misremembered where it was. It is a lovely dark one. But thank you for the permission to acquire more – it will be my pleasure!

  4. bcparkison says:

    Another one I really love and would like to have. Isn’t nature a wonder?Wonderful photos by the way,

    1. It certainly is. Thank you Beverley.

  5. susurrus says:

    I’m glad your hellebore i getting the love it deserves 🙂

  6. Stunning photos Ali! It is delightful to see color this time of year. We still have drab, drab, and more drab. Not a single sign of color yet.
    I love seeing all the varieties of hellebores. Here we don’t get the variety that you have. The same with snow drops. I suppose one could order them, but in the garden centers, it is mostly just the common pink, and I am delighted to have those, because just a few years ago, we didn’t even have that. We are so behind you when it comes to gardening, in more ways than one.

    1. That is interesting, Cindy. I always find it interesting to see which varieties are available elsewhere. I suppose there are also trends, and particular plants and varieties spread now through social media interest.

  7. Heyjude says:

    Your adoration of the humble hellebore is delightful. I too have hellebore envy and covet the yellow ones and the pretty pink doubles until I see the price of them. But then again, it was Valentine’s Day this week and a hellebore will last a lot longer than a bunch of roses.

    1. Yes. I went out a couple of weeks with the intention of buying one, and changed my mind when I saw the price label – £15!

      1. Heyjude says:

        At Ashwood nurseries they can be as much as £50! I was contemplating buying one, but that could buy me a lot more plants. I do love the yellow ones though.

      2. Oh my goodness, I didn’t realise they were so expensive! I am happy to admire them on Instagram!

  8. Chloris says:

    Indeed hellebores are endlessly fascinating and everyone is different, I spend hours looking up their skirts. But you need more than one, if you email me your address I’ll send you some seedlings of different colours.

    1. I would love that, Chloris! That is so kind!

  9. Great post and lovely photos. I was once indifferent to hellebores but am happy to say I was wrong. I would not be without them now.

    1. It is funny how you can be ‘meh’ about a plant for years and then suddenly see the light, isn’t it?

  10. Ann Mackay says:

    Such a gorgeous colour! Loved your post – and I understand the hellebore envy. (I reckon all hellebores are beautiful and deserve admiration. 🙂 )

    1. Thank you Ann. You are right, they are all worthy of our attention.

  11. Ali, you’re not only mindful; you’re downright intrusive! And I’m so happy you are because I never would have known about the secrets of these shy little flowers. The centers bring to my mind a circle of ballerinas en pointe. Exquisite!

    1. That is a beautiful description – you are exactly right, they do look like that! I can hear the music!

  12. Eliza Waters says:

    A beautiful Hellebore study, Ali. Up close and personal!

  13. Angela says:

    I am so fond of these.

    1. They are lovely, aren’t they, Angela? They are one of those plants that I think only gardeners know about, and get obsessed by!

  14. janesmudgeegarden says:

    I do love your microscopic examinations of flowers,Ali, which encourage us all to look more closely at what we have growing in our gardens. There’s so much to be discovered, isn’t there? I recently discovered the wonders of the Balotta, quite a plain plant from a distance, but the flowers are fascinating.

    1. They are gorgeous, Jane! They are not a plant I am familiar with, but I just googled them, and I see what you mean! Thank you for such encouragement: it means a lot.

  15. Ali, you are so sweet – admiring even an aphid! I try to be gentle with insects in the garden, but aphids are the one I kill on sight 🙂
    PS: I totally share your hellebore envy! there’s just so many, and they are so beautiful.

    1. That is what is so wonderful about the world we currently live in, with blogs and Instagram, isn’t it? There is an upside to all the challenges of social media.

  16. Beautiful photos. I’m prone to envy everyone who can garden in February!

    1. It was so lovely in the sunshine today! I have had a lovely time.

  17. nancy marie allen says:

    I loved the intimacy of the photographs!

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed them, Nancy!

  18. Michelle says:

    Your connection and understanding of flowers is such a pleasure to read. I love being able to witness your love of nature through your photography and narratives!

    1. Thank you Michelle, that is lovely to read.

  19. Cathy says:

    As always, so well observed, both in photograph and text. Thank you

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