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July 29, 2018

I just wrote about violets, including eating them. Here is a plant one should never eat. Indeed, they have said to have been used by the greeks in ancient times to poison the water supply of a city during a seige. Their very name means poisonous to eat. I always thought it was a witchy sounding name.

Hellabores, or Christmas roses (though not for us in the antipodes) are a wonderful winter plant. Their flowers mostly nod towards the earth and so you have to tip them to the sky to see in to their faces. They like spots in damp leaf litter under deciduous trees, and are very hardy. They don’t have any scent to speak of.  I have planted a bed of them over the last few seasons under the horse chestnut tree where the leaf litter is very thick. This year I found a new spot for some under a silver birch where there used to be a very sparse and unhappy looking patch of lawn. Mum already had many in the shady beds around the front lawn. They generally self seed (though not turning out exactly like their parent) and demand very little from the gardener in my experience. If you want you can trim last years leaves away (which can look a bit tatty) before they flower so the blooms stand out a better. They are not the best cut flower as they quickly droop even more than is their habit when growing. There are some which are the colour of purply-black satin. I think these look wonderful in bowl with blue bells.

They originally come from Europe. There is a saw-tooth leaved variety, with flowers like green bells, which comes from Corsica. Breeders have been busy crossing them and selecting all sorts of colours and shades. Chasing the different sorts down can be addictive.  You can get them by mail from post office farm nursery and I have bought them from the Woodbridge Nursery stall at Salamanca Market in Hobart.  My current favourite is white picotee. The white flowers are edged with purply-pink and are on quite a tall stem and the stand out well among the fox-glove leaves and emerging blue bells, which are its companions in the bed I have them in.

Here are some pictures of ours (NB they can be awkward to photograph in the garden because they are always looking down):