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WINTER can bring out the worst in the garden. Shady spots in particular can look dull and dreary, unless you have some hellebores, upright evergreen flowering perennials whose subtle, noddingR blooms bring a welcome interest to an otherwise gloomy outlook.

From mid-winter to spring, H. orientalis, the Lenten rose, bears white or creamy green flowers that flush pink with age, while its leathery, deep green leaves persist throughout the year.

It's ideally placed near the front of the shrub border as it only grows to around 45cm (18in) tall and wide and if you're not careful it can be drowned under other more showy plants. The leaves provide good ground cover and flowers will last well in water. One lovely white variety is the H. niger, the Christmas rose, which flowers between January and March. Dig in plenty of well-rotted organic matter before planting, but be warned they won't thrive in waterlogged soil. They will grow in either sun or shade and like lime or chalk.

Choose H. orientalis hybrids for their large flowers and colour range, while others worth considering include H. argutifolius, which reaches 90cmx90cm (36inx36in) or more, producing greenish flowers from January to March.

Interplant hellebores with spring-flowering bulbs or hardy cyclamen, or team them with epimediums and hardy geraniums in a border.

* EVER through about planting some cane fruit? Bare-rooted cane fruits including blackberries, raspberries and hybrid berry canes can be planted up until the end of the month. You'll need to prepare the soil thoroughly by digging a trench along the proposed row and working in plenty of organic matter. All these cane fruits, apart from autumn-fruiting raspberries, will need support for their fruiting canes, which can be done with posts at either end of the row and a minimum of three horizontal wires attached to the posts at even intervals.

If you are using a wall or fence for blackberries (raspberries prefer to be in the open), attach the wires to vine eyes screwed into the wall.

Bare-rooted raspberries should be planted about 45cm (18in) apart while blackberries and hybrid berries need more space, so should be planted at least 1.5m (5ft) apart, or more.

Prune newly planted canes to around 22cm (9in) from the ground, to encourage the production of strong canes from the base of the plant. Tie them to the wire as they grow through the season but don't harvest them this year and remove flowers if there are a lot of them, which will encourage a better crop next season.


SPRING FLOWER: Pictured right is H. niger, the Christmas rose, which flowers between January and March, despite the name. This Hellebore won''t thrive in waterlogged soil GET THEM IN THE SOIL! Now is the time to plant raspberries
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Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Feb 10, 2011
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