Hellebore, a winter flowering plant.

Not many plants look their best in the winter time and even more plants are completely gone this time of year. So maybe that is one reason why the Hellebore can get away with nodding her head down towards the roots and still catch the attention of a passerby. 
Often called Winter- or Lenten Rose, Hellebore is not actually related to the Rose but belongs in the Ranunculaceae family. This popular Winter flowering plant is native to Eastern Europe where it grows in open meadows in Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Turkey, Greece, Italy, and more.

Naturally found in alkaline soils, she is remarkably tolerant of acidic soils as well. Planted in part shade, Hellebores will thriving in rich, organic soil in zones 5 to 9. This plants tolerates dry summer soil but becomes a heavy consumer of water when actively growing, which can be from fall to spring, depending on the variety.
New plants can be had by dividing clumps in Spring every few years, or from seedlings that grow up around the old plant.

 The Hellebore's 'flower' consists not of petal but of sepals, whos function is to protects the flower part, which is actually at the center of the showy sepals, consisting of a cluster of finely textured stamens and rather small and insignificant petals.Hellebore flower
Hellebore can make a beautiful cut-flower but keep a few things in mind. First off, all parts are toxic and it is wise to protect your hands when working with them as the sap can irritate the skin. some say the smell can be somewhat offensive however it's only the leaves smell bad, the flowers are odorless. 
When cutting the flowers look for the most mature blooms, they will last longer than the fresh buds. However you can use the younger stems by cutting the stems short (the shorter the better) with a sharp knife and also prick the stem below the flower, just under the calyx. They are often seen floating in water but my own experience leaves me to belief that these blooms do great in any bouquet, however I have not used them in foam. Adding CVBN tablets to the water also helps with the longevity of the blooms.     

Hellebores come in many different colors from near black, purple, rose-pink, green, yellow and white.

The meaning of Hellebores.
In the days when messages were send in the language of flowers, using Hellebores in a bouquet meant; scandal and calumny. Receiving such a flowers the recipient would perceive the message as a wish to to overcome or prevent such disaster. In that light I think we should put much more Hellebores in bouquets and arrangements, who could not use a bit of flower power to overcome just that type of trouble?
The name Hellebore was probably derived from the Greek word elein  meaning "to injure" and bora meaning "food".
In the early days of medicine, two kind if Hellebore were recognized, White and Black hellebore. However White Hellebore is in fact not a Hellebore at all but a plant known as Veratrum Album belonging to the Melanthiaceae family. This was likely the "Hellebore" Hippocrates used as a purgative.
Black Hellebore, also a toxic has been used historically as a purgative, but also for many different afflictions such as paralysis, gout and more, in particular it was used for insanity.
Nowadays the plant still plays a role in conventional hearth medicine. 

IN Medicine:                                                     
The homeopathic remedy Helleborus is mainly used to treat depression. Patients who require this medication are extremely ill-tempered and become angry very easily. They prefer to be left alone and not disturbed by anyone. Such patients are extremely gloomy, desolate, mournful, silent or tremendously tormented. Helleborus, as a homeopathic remedy, is particularly apt for girls during puberty or at time when they do not have menstrual periods after having them for once or a few times. 

Please consult a properly trained homeopath before taking this remedy.

Poinsettia, everything you wanted to know.

One of the pleasure nearing the Christmas season is the flood of Poinsettias everywhere. The plant also goes by the name Christmas Star, not surprisingly as the  dentate shape of the vibrant bracts form a blazing star, which remind us so clearly of the Star of Bethlehem, that Franciscan friars in Mexico included it in their Christmas celebrations as early as the 17th century. drawing of poinsettia bracts
Other legend has it’s first association with the Christmas season in the story of  a girl in Mexico, too poor to celebrate the birth of Christ, she gathered weeds along the side of the road and put them on the church’s alter where later beautiful crimson Poinsettias sprouted in abundance.

More specifically, Euphorbia pulcherrima meaning “the most beautiful Euphorbia” derives its common English name from Joel Robert Poinsett, the first US Minister to Mexico who during the mid 1820 was traveling in the area of  Taxco del Alarcon where Joel Robert first noticed what the locals called “Flor de Noche Buena” or Christmas Eve flower. Intrigued (as he also was an avid amateur botanist), he started sending samples back home to the States where the plants did well on his plantation in South Carolina and by 1836  the American name for the plant was Poinsettia.
In Nautl which is the language of the Aztecs, Poinsettias were called Cuetlaxochitl  It represented purity. The name signified “mortal flower that perishes and withers like all that is pure.”  picture of poinsettia in natural setting

This shrub or small tree can grow up to 13 feet in it’s  native environment where the climate is mild with average highs around  81°F and average lows around 63 °F, all year long. The dry season is October to May and rains typically occur from June to September. Long nights and short days are then the catalyst  that stimulates the green bracts to change color (photoperiodism) and by mid December the bright crimson “blooms” emerge. More modern hybrids come in choral, pale green, cream, pink, white, marbled, splashed or speckled varieties. The actual flowers are called cyathia  and consists of a group of small yellow structures that can be found in the center of each leaf bunch (bracts) but they do not attract any pollinators.
In areas outside its natural environment, it is commonly grown as an indoor plant where it prefers good morning sun and shade during the hotter part of the day.

Potted Poinsettiaspicture of poisettia
Paul Ecke Sr as well as Jr. are the family that mostly is responsible for the Poinsettia industry the USA. They developed a grafting technique that produced a much more attractive plant and nowadays most plants for the USA are grown from cuttings. In order to produce a plant with multiple flowers a phytoplasma infection is used, this infection triggers the plant to produce many axillary buds.
When choosing a Poinsettia look for a plant with dark green leaves all the way down to the soil level and make sure there is no pollen on the cyathia. The plant also should be in proportion to the pot it planted in.
When you bring home your plant, be mindful not to expose the plant to temperatures below 55F even for a short time, it will cause the Poinsettia to wilt and drop it’s leaves and at that point there is not much to be done than to clean up the mess and find another plant.
To keep your plant looking good keep the soil moist but not soggy, and place in a room with sufficient natural light with temperatures around 60 to 70 degrees F. Make sure the plant does not touch any window panes and keep it away from cold or warm drafts. Water thoroughly when the soil begins to dry but be sure to drain off excess water to prevent root-rot.
The use of Poinsettia as potted plants is widespread and often is used for Christmas foliage and color.

For information on how to grow Poinsettias from cuttings click here.

Here is a very good reference on How to get your Poinsettia to re-bloom.


Cutflowerspicture of Poinsettia bracts in fresh flower arrangement.
To use the Poinsettia as a cut flower you want to find the freshest blooms on a plant with foliage all the way to the ground. Look for  green- or red tipped cyathia and avoid bracts with cyathia that have yellow pollen, this is a sign that the plant is older.
Remove leaves of lower part and cut stem at a slanted orientation with sharp knife, now sear the end with a flame for a few seconds, this will seal in the milky sap. Place stem in lukewarm  water and add a floral preservative.  Let stand in cool room to drink and after an hour refresh water if it looks milky, a little bit of sap may still seep where leaves were removed. When water is clear the stem can be used in fresh cut arrangements and will last up to two weeks in water provided they are not exposed to excessive heat, cold or drafts.

The Aztecs referred to the winter-blooming plant as cuetlaxochitl and used the plant to produce red dye and also as an antipyretic medication.

Although not backed up by scientific evidence of it’s effectiveness, Poinsettia has been mentioned in the use of folk remedies for fever, pain, infection, warts, skin disorders and toothache.

Many plants in the Euphorbia family are poisonous but the toxicity of Euphorbia pulcherrima is relatively mild, it’s latex may cause an allergic reaction in sensitive people and also may cause diarrhea or vomiting. Sap in the eye could cause temporary blindness.

Poinsettias are susceptible to several diseases, mostly fungal, but also bacterial and parasitic.  Here is a good link to the most common problems for Poinsettias.




Chrysanthemums all around.

picture of specialty chrysanthemums
Specialty Chrysanthemums

The Chrysanthemum bloom is symbolic to Autumn and is frequently referred to as the flower of the 9th moon, she is native to China and Eastern Europe and has a rich history dating back to the 15 century BC.
“Kiku” Japanese for Chrysanthemum is the national flower of Japan, references of this flower goes back to the 8th century AD. The flower plays a significant role in Japan’s culture and one realizes this when Japan’s National Chrysanthemum Day is also called the Festival of Happiness. Besides, a single blooming Chrysanthemum has been adopted by Japan as the crest and official seal of the Emperor.  picture of pinkchrysanthemum

According to the world of Chinese The Chrysanthemum(菊花) signifies intellectual accomplishments, cleansing qualities, and longevity of life. Buddhists use this flower as offerings on altars because they symbolizes powerful Yang energy.

The flower attracts good luck in the home and is often given to old people  since Chrysanthemums symbolize a strong and long life because of its health-giving properties. During the Han dynasty (206 BC- AD 220), people drank chrysanthemum wine on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month in order to prolong their lives.



picture of bouquet of white Chrysanthemums
white chrysanthemum can have different meanings in different cultures.

As a cut flower Chrysanthemums are hard to beat. The cut flower Chrysanthemum features 13 different classes of flower types, they come in a wide array of colors: white, yellow, green, orange, pink, red and purple flowers and are grown on long, strong stems. These assets as well as their exceptionally long vase life of approx. 2 weeks make it an ideal cut flower and re especially appreciated in the use of corporate arrangements that have to last for a week at least in the sometimes less than ideal office climates.

Chrysanthemums are frequently used in funeral work. In China Japan and Korea, white or yellow chrysanthemums symbolize grief. In many European countries such as Hungary, Poland, Croatia, France, Spain and Italy white Chrysanthemums are symbolic of death and are only used for funerals and grave sites. However the more colorful Chrysanthemums are used for many other occasions as well.

In US white Chrysanthemum symbolize truth.

Condition Chrysanthemum stems by removing all discolored and damaged foliage as well as all the foliage that will be under water, clean stems under a stream of water, removing about 1-2 inches of the stem by giving it a slanted cut with a sharp knife and place in lukewarm water with floral preservative for about 2 hours.    picture of Green Spidermum

To grow these non hardy florist Chrysanthemums will require lots of care and disbudding the lateral buds.

For more information here is a link 

Garden beds

picture ofFall Mums
Fall Chrysanthemums credit: Todays Homeowner.com

Chrysanthemums are an obvious choice for late summer and fall garden colors. The easy to grow hardy mums are readily available from garden center and can be planted any time as long as the roots have a chance to get acclimated before being placed under too much stress due to extreme heat or cold. So approx. one and a half months or so before frost or extreme heath is a good rule of thumb. Hardy Chrysanthemums can be propagated by dividing, by plant cuttings or by seed.

Chrysanthemum can be grown in full sun or part shade, give them at least 4 hours of sun and make sure they are not crowded as Mildew can be a problem.

for more information here is a link

or this link

Chrysanthemum medicinal use goes back to the beginning of it’s history when it was  grown as an herb in it’s native China. It’s medicinal properties are called on to relief inflammatory conditions such as fever, hypertension, head aches, colds and eye infections and more.

Prepared as a tea made from the dried flower petals of white or yellow Chrysanthemums, Many people drink the beverage because of it’s cleansing qualities.

picture of cup of chrysanthemum tea
Chrysanthemum Tea

for more information click here
or this article by Jane Berdot


Julie Day from “Today’s Homeowner” question forum wrote the following on edibility.

Chrysanthemum flowers are edible, but the flavor varies widely from plant to plant, from sweet to tangy to bitter or peppery.

  • Chrysanthemum Tea: Traditional Asian chrysanthemum tea is typically made from the yellow or white flowers of Chrysanthemum morifolium or Chrysanthemum indicum..
  • Chrysanthemum Greens: Garland Chrysanthemum, or Chrysanthemum coronarium is a traditional Japanese vegetable, also known as Shungiku, it has a mild flavor that lends itself well to stir-fries and chop suey. Since you can use both the flowers and the greens of Garland chrysanthemum, it’s the most popular “edible” chrysanthemum for home gardens.
  • Salads, Garnishes, and Stir-Fries: Any type of chrysanthemum flowers can be blanched, then the petals removed and added to your favorite dish. This is easiest with large petaled varieties of mums. Use only the petals, since the flower base is usually very bitter.

Chrysanthemum Wine: You can also make wine from chrysanthemum flowers. Again, traditionally yellow or white blossoms are used.


Cautions: Pyrethrum, a plant based insecticide, is made from the dried flowers of Chrysanthemum cinerariaefolium or Chrysanthemum coccineum. Although it takes a pretty high concentration of flowers to make pyrethrum, I would still avoid planting these types of mums in an edible garden.

The dog days of summer.

I grew up with cool summers in my native Holland and the sweltering hot Virginia summers had me wilting most of those sweaty days when I first arrived in my new homeland. The humid climate was one of the reasons we decided to move elsewhere and thus in 1994 my husband Mark, the three kids and I pulled up stakes and planted out roots in Portland OR in 1994. We still think we found the perfect climate. Despite Portland’s weather reputation, I love the climate here and so do many flowers I have noticed. A long growing season and plenty of rainfall, what more can I want?
However not every day is a beautiful day of course and the Oregon’s generous rainfall does not materialize year round. These last many weeks, maybe even months, it’s been very dry around here. Usually we experience a few of those hot sweaty dog days in summer, even here in Portland (and sometimes even in cool Holland), but this year Mother Nature seem to bring it on a lot.
Irrigation is a challenge, the way my gardens are spread out and on different properties. I use long hoses, both from the front and from the back of my house to reach most of the gardens around the neighborhood and I also placed hoses in strategic places to connect my long hose to in order to even reach a further distance, all outfitted with shut-off valves of course. These hoses are for reaching the spread-out gardens. Then soaker hoses do most of the work. Drip irrigation has helped me preserve water and my own energy as the water slowly drips into the soil near the root of the plants. There are still gardens that lack a soaker hose in place and here I have to water overhead with a sprinkler or I hand water around each plant, which is what I prefer. this allows me to inspect the plants and it’s environment while watering. Although it is time consuming, it is also one of the nicest jobs: giving all those lovely plants a good deep drink, what’s cooler than that?


More gardening space for city dwellers.

picture of lupineRunning out of space? As a city dweller it’s easy to run out of space in your garden for al the  flowers and plants you want, need or like to grow and so sometimes gardeners tend to crowd their plants in order to save space. Although there are creative ways to integrate different varieties of plants in a tight place for a more efficient use of space, simply not giving your plants the space that they need will not be the answer to your plant cravings as over-crowding often leads to spindly growth and diseases to booth.

picture of kniphofia
picture of CosmosRather than getting frustrated about the size of you garden, there are other ways to satisfy your flower gardening cravings. Many years ago I realized I needed way more space for all my plants and seeds than I could find on my own city lot, so I started looking for places in my neighborhood that were either neglected or underused. This was not hard to do and when I saw a place that seemed to meet my criteria, I approached the owners of these spaces and explained to them why I want to grow the flowers on their properties. I do all the work of course and I make sure to keep the place looking clean and tidy, (which is important for many reasons) and then when the blooms start appearing, I harvest the blooms for my floral arrangements and designs. Usually I will leave some blooms for neighbors and bees to enjoy though. This way they benefit, I benefit, the neighborhood benfits and the bees do too. Try it and let me know how it goes. The bees will love you for it and likely your neighbors will too.

Wildflowers on Larch Mountain

Once in a while my husband and I find time to go on a hike. I love to bring my wildflower book along so we can identify the flowers encountered on the trail. This Memorial Day weekend brought us to a misty Larch Mountain trail and although it was not a good day for beautiful vista’s that one can enjoy on a clear day, it was however a beautiful and almost mystical walk among the lush green undergrowth, the tall dense trees and the old growth snags and logs, resting on the forest floor.

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