Living With Limitations: Time Warp

Oakleaf Hydrangea bloom

I am trapped in a stay-home-produced time warp. There is the younger-me that began this garden, and there is the today-me (sometimes known as Mr. Know-it-All) conversing with Whipper-Snapper. I call my younger self names for he is over 30 years younger than I.


“You need to lighten up. I did not begin gardening until I was in my fifties. I, for the most part, was self-taught. Yes, I know the old saw about he who is self-taught has a fool for a teacher. I happen to think I have done a great job with my garden, so why not leave me alone and let me enjoy what I have created? And, just where were you when you were really needed all those years?”


“Whoops! I did not mean my presence to be criticism. Far from it. I greatly admire your work over past years. You have created a place-of-peace garden, a healing place for body and soul, which I would not want to be without. Thank you. What say we take a walk together in our garden and see it through each other’s eyes?”

“The Oakleaf Hydrangea you transplanted on the hillside many years ago has performed well. A great selection placed among the limestone ledge with its clay soil. So many large white conical blooms and felted leaves, with winter time bare stems of peeling cinnamon. I cleaned out deadwood, did a slight nip and tuck operation, finally cleaning out all weeds beneath the shrub. Looking a bit open and bare now.”


“As the native hydrangea was maturing I was surprised to see seedlings of wildflowers moving in beneath the shrub. Seemed as though all my wildflowers wanted to get into the act. There were Jacob’s Ladders, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Wood Poppy, Woodland Phlox, and Hepatica filling the space in a riot of color and texture. Then I had my gardening activities curtailed and more aggressive plants moved in and crowded them out.”


“What say we put back that riot of color and kick it up a notch? This year your volunteer Columbine seem to be mostly some shade of purple. Let’s pick the darkest shade and transplant a couple beneath the hydrangea.


“Hold on. You, of all people, know I am not crazy about the color purple.”


“Hear me out. Let me go on and complete my design concept using plants in the garden.”


Mumbling softly beneath upfront thoughts: “Like I have a lot of choice?”


Superb Lily, Turks Cap lily, Lilium superbum.

“Let’s take a couple of darkest purple Columbine, then follow up with that white-blooming hardy geranium as a background. Where it is presently located deer eat it back just as it comes into bloom. Perhaps they will leave it alone if they have to work for it. Then we select three of those Jack-in-the-Pulpit seedlings with dark chocolate markings. You with me thus far?”

“Then we walk over here and select a seedling of hardy geranium ‘Coffee’ that has darkest mahogany colored large leaves.  Next up we need some later color, so let’s move three of the superbum lilies in orange with chocolate freckles. Next to the lilies and completing the area we use Branched Bug Bane to lead along those stones and ferns. It is your favorite bug-bane. Then further up the hill and across we add two more bug-banes with their white fuzzy candles of bloom.”


“Sounds pretty ambitious to me. You up to all that digging and toting, old man? I will not be around to help you with that one.”


“Well, it won’t all happen in one day. Some today, another tomorrow, but I can get it done. In fact, if we both work together I know it will all become reality. After all, what would I do without you and all you experience over past years? Without you I would not be who I am today.”


Having last smart remark as usual: “Oh, so now you are going to blame me for you?”


If you garden with limitations you are in my book.




Living With Limitations: Shuffling Along

Iris cristata. A favored groundcover in my gardens.

Gene’s book, available at

Spring Shuffle

We have had May in April and now March in May. We enjoyed the early warm weather and, with no forecast of freeze, moved all of our containers out of the greenhouse. Containers, large and small, went on to the front porch and patio, the deck, and up into my garden. It was not a full week later foretasted weather changed and we saw three nights of freeze warnings back to back.

Many of the containers were move up on to the porch and covered, some went back into the greenhouse, and the larger ones I moved to my garden were gathered in one sheltered location and covered.


In my excitement and celebration of early spring I began transplanting earlier than normal. Begin with in tender Asian perennials, add in newly emerging green noses and disaster was in the making. Some plants got covered with cardboard boxes, others with Styrofoam boxes and in one area I used blankets. The rest of the garden simply had to ride it out. Many of the plants were killed back from earlier frosts and now were hit harder than ever once more.

Trillium vaseyi

Shuffling Along

While moving three heavy containers from the deck to my office my wife and I shared the weight. When setting the last large container down we almost bumped heads, and she looked me directly in the eye while saying “Tell me again. Just why are we doing this?” In and out, out and in, shuffle those pots.

One More Time

This afternoon it is supposed to warm up a bit and I will be removing the covers from my tender perennials, take the protection from containers and move them back into place. Porch and patio, deck, get reshuffled once more. One would think appropriate music would be written for the dance we gardeners do. Something besides the Russian classic Volga Boatmen, or lyrics from Showboat like “lift that barge, tote that bale.”

Trillium cuneatum with Epimedium


By after dinner, I will be feeling all smug and self-satisfied for accomplishing all that manual labor and having my gardening world back in order. While Homo sapiens humans remember pain in order to avoid future behaviors that can inflict pain, Homo sapiens ssp. gardener seems to be missing that vital gene. I will keep on waltzing with the weather, shuffling along, and wondering where I can purchase that next plant.

We’re not out of the woods on COVID-19 yet. Stay home and read my latest book.

Living With Limitations: Staying Home

Trillium recurvatum



The psychology of transactional analysis states there are three basic states of ego to act from. There are adult-like, child-like and parent-like ego states. Social transactions are analyzed to understand underlying behavior. Such as: if I were to present a fact to you in a conversation, and you were receptive in the adult-ego we would have effective communication. If you saw me as parent-like there would be cross-communication and we would need to look at why the transaction between us was not working. It is not difficult to draw a simple graphic of the communication states.

We’re all Adults Here

Six circles, three to a side. Lines going from adult to adult, child to child and parent to parent egos are “healthy” transaction and crossed lines are not effective communication. One can often see the ego state on an individual’s face while communicating. So. What does this have to do with gardening adults?

Staying Home

All week long I have been trying to find some way to leave my sanctuary and return to what I once knew. In the immortal words of Popeye “It’s all I can stands and I can’t stands no more.” I have been isolated for two months now, my wife being my contact with the outside world. She stayed home from work to protect me further, only leaving our country home when necessary. I have more garden than I could ever hope to weed in several lifetimes. I have plants I can move around like chess pieces, playing design games forever.

There are sound reasons behind my quarantining myself. I have severe lung and heart problems, among other ‘technical difficulties’. If I left my safety zone and took that trip to garden centers I would be placing myself in life-threatening jeopardy. One would think living at the end of an oxygen tube for the past three years would assist in keeping me in the adult ego. The area I want to return to is a State hot spot for COVID-19. I have to ask myself. How many new plants does it take to equal my life? All of this is adult-stuff. There is also a child within that wants what it wants when it wants.


A patient and caring parent-ego begins an internal dialogue to sooth the impatient child-ego. “For now, and it is only for today, it is not wise to go out and play with your friends. Today let’s just the two of us play in the garden. We have those wonderful rare plants your gardening friend stopped by and shared with you. We need to work up a design and place to put them. If you like, this afternoon we can call the local garden center and see if that order is completed. They have already promised to deliver your plants. There are so many fun things to do today in the garden. Tomorrow is for tomorrow.”

Playing in the Garden

Gene picked up his tool bag, spade and rake and headed to his hillside garden. Before you could count to ten he was on the kneeling pad weeding a bed, getting it ready for a new design. There was lunch and a nap, then several small promised projects to entertain during the afternoon. And, there was ice cream after dinner.

If you garden one day you will appear in my book A Gardener Grounded. While staying home is a good time to find yourself. 

Living With Limitations: Oh! The Possibilities

Dogwood Golden Shadows Image Spring MeadowsOh! The Possibilities

I am not sure if spring has finally arrived to remain in my garden, but it certainly seems to have stuck inside the gardener. Along with the spring green of buds in the trees and shrubs, the damaged foliage from freeze, I see and feel so many possibilities. Walking through my garden I am almost overwhelmed by the ‘what-ifs’.  What if I moved this over there? And then if I could locate another perennial to go with those two? Now that would really make a statement. I had to stop the strolling and come back to my office so I could begin to make notes on all the concepts crowding into my mind.

Opportunities Opening

My garden is old enough that the first trees I transplanted are now declining or dead. Of three dogwood only one has any life remaining. A dogwood cultivar “Wolf’s Eyes” probably passed away from my continual digging in its root system. A white pine reached maturity and then gave it’s all to the woodpeckers. Suddenly my shade garden is becoming no longer a shade garden. This is either a tragedy or an opportunity; possibly both.

Where a deceased dogwood once provided a focal point and shade for beds both beneath and down the hillside there is now new possibilities. I am a bit old to be transplanting trees reaching full size so I have selected Cornus alternifolia (Dogwood) ‘Golden Shadow’, a Pagoda dogwood reaching only 10 to 12 feet in height and canopy spread. This small tree has distinctive horizontal branching covered with variegated foliage. Each leaf is bright yellow with an emerald green center, overlays of pinkish tones on new growth. Now imagine the gold and green foliage laced with white blooms. Oh, and it is a cultivar of native dogwood.

The tree will get a location off center in the bed and will have companions transplanted at the same time.

Ladies Mantle
Image Monrovia


Having long admired Ladies Mantle (Alchemilla mollis) I finally have the perfect companions and excuse to bring it into my garden. At a local garden center I have on order ‘Thriller’ Ladies Mantle. This particular perennial is noted for its grey-green leaves, each one distinctly ruffled with toothed edges where drops of dew collect overnight. The leaf is indented from edge to stem so that as the dew accumulates gravity rolls the moisture to the center of the leaf forming large crystal droplets. Blooms are sprays of vivid golden-yellow sprays carried above the leaves in abundance. It is pretty assertive so I only need two of these.

Years ago I ordered Helleborus foetidus ‘Gold Bullion’ from Pine Knot Nursery. The unique hellebore had long narrow serrated leaves in gold with green bells for blooms. Unfortunately it only lasted two years in my garden and then disappeared. It must have been around long enough to play hanky-panky with the other hellebores for I now have seedlings popping up with golden foliage. One area has numerous little gold leaved seedlings. Two that stand out at this time are large enough to move to the new bed with the Ladies Mantle and dogwood.

Evergreen golden leaves with burgundy tinted stems reach about two feet in height and the same in spread. In mid-winter the bell shaped flowers will be on the same stem as the leaves and they will be in lime-green. I do believe those three plants will not only hold the space, they will have stage-presence.

If sufficient rooms shows itself there is the possibility (there is that word again) of adding two Hosta Rainbow’s End with its bright gold and green foliage.

There are notes on many more combinations for the spaces opening up in the garden as well as simply moving things around while I wait for the COVID-19 virus to make its exit so we can get to our garden centers in person.

A Gardener Grounded book, available in soft cover or ebook, is available to explore all the possibilities of gardening with physical limits.

Living With Limitations: A Sad Sunday

Spring Show 

A sad Sunday, indeed. I must admit that today was a sad Sunday for adult children. The Easter Bunny did not arrive. There was no basket. A Hallmark card addressed to me was not on the kitchen table. Worse still was the blatant lack of chocolate eggs and other sweets nestled in the faux bright-green grass.  Makes one wonder about the world’s condition when the Easter Bunny has been quarantined.

Early awakening fern, Chinese ginger


To enhance the mood of the morning skies are heavily overcast, sprinkles of rain dancing through, practicing for the coming cool rain. There will be no play time in the garden, just the colorful blare of a TV, all sound and light, but now a tired distraction. This is one of those times when I will need to look within myself and locate a reserve of quiet comfort. Make-do is not enough this morning.

Looking Outward

Looking outward through the patio doors the scenery is of native Redbuds in bloom with the cultivar Appalachian Red kicking up the color several notches. Daffodils are in bloom, with Dicentra and Galtonia performing below the redbuds. The lawn if filled with Spring Beauty blooms and early violets. A backdrop of fresh spring-green buds forming the forest provides the background. My expectations created of past experiences created a let-down, but simply looking outside color parts overhanging gloom, the world goes on with its usual seasons.

Looking Inward

Now that I can see the world does go on in spite of how I feel now, I find I can look inward finding I am not all that disappointed with my world changing. I will probably survive the lack of chocolate eggs and holiday traditions. The child within is surrounded by an adult, so there will be reassurance of another day to come, perhaps some eggs from Amazon. All really will be OK for we have a comfort within that comes from being a gardener.

Birdbath, Anemone nemorosa Dee Day


Later in the day a trip to the greenhouse will be stepping into another world. One of warmth, of lights, or jungle-moist air and green plants on racks and tables. Closing doors behind me cuts off trails of disappointment and discontent. My physical and spiritual well-being just joined my mental state forming contentment. Hands and eyes will be busy watering needy plants, seedlings will be transplanted to new and bigger homes and all will be fed. I have entered a world of silent communication, of attachment, of being a part of another world.

The Garden

Misting showers have disappeared and more light has filtered in brightening the morning so I know there will be a walk in the garden. There I will continue in my place of peace and contentment. In bloom are results of all my past times in the garden, brightening my day in a way no TV screen can. As I walk I imagine all the times to come in the garden forming a continuing relationship that is always there for me.  Contentment in continuity of yesterday, today and promises of tomorrow that only gardening can give.


A very large Easter Bunny who appeared to be afraid of falling from the top of a fire engine came by my home while I was walking the garden. Siren was earsplitting, the lights flashing through the dreary gloom like a light saber. Following was the local police car making those weird watch-me sounds and light show. Inside both were waving children. While I cooked dinner my wife made lava cakes for dessert. So. I spoke too soon: Yes, the Easter Bunny did come and I had chocolate.

If you have physical limitations while gardening you are in my book. Excellent read while at home.

Living With Limitations: Covid-19 and Gardening

Corydalis solida selection 

I feel sure everyone has heard and lived enough of Covid-19 virus that you do not need more news on that front from me. However, it has definitely changed every facet of our lives and that includes our gardening. Rather than dwell upon the negative aspects, I intend to stick to the positive as much as possible. Remember, I am only chatting about my gardening. The rest of life can stand outside the gate and wait for me to return to ‘real’ life and its concerns.


With my medical conditions life out there in the real world is a definite hazard to not only my well being, but my life. I am observing self-quarantining and my wife is as well so she does not bring anything home. Over these past weeks she has used this time to clean, polish, paint, cut and reorganize everything that does not run from her. Even with my limited physical abilities I have pulled more weeds, cleaned more debris, than at any point in my gardening career. If I can keep it up my garden will look the best it has ever looked this time of the year.

Garden Centers

It is still early in the garden season for visits to my local garden centers, but they are there working and there is nothing wrong with my cell phone. I called this past week and they delivered 10 cubic years of mulch fines along with 2 bottles of deer spray. If current restrictions remain in place on shopping I have a feeling that if I know what I want in the way of trees and shrubs and my favorite local garden center carries the plants, they will deliver. Not my favorite way to select plants, but one has to adapt to ‘geterdone’. I am staying in touch with the garden center manager by phone and text to purchase trees and shrubs as they arrive.

When it comes to perennials my intention is to hold out in hopes that I can experience shopping at garden centers picking not only what is on my wish list, but seeing what else I need/want that I was not aware of.

Double Primula vulgaris hybrid

Social Distancing in the Garden

Karen, gardening friend and former nursery owner, called offering to share seedlings she had been successful in germinating. The plants were in containers and labeled, watered and arranged neatly in a box she placed in my greenhouse. As she walked my garden I waved to her and shouted my appreciation as we kept our distance. There were five seed strains of Delphiniums x millennium quart containers with multiple seedlings just begging to be separated. Another container held seedlings of a native Filipendula rubrum, while two more were filled with Salpiglossis, an annual she fell in love with at Longwood Gardens. She had also dug some perennials from her garden and they were in larger containers: Actaea for actaea japonica ‘cheju-do’ and Iris x robusta Gerald Dabney. Could not have done better had I made a trip to a garden center.

Primula vulgaris hybrid

Mail Order: Social Distancing at its Extreme

I promised myself I would not order from websites or catalogs this year and hold out for garden center shopping where the plants would be much larger for about the same money. When Covid – 19 came along that ended that bit of wishful thinking. I did give in and place two small orders for plants I could no longer live without and one order arrived the afternoon after Karen left. I waited twenty-four hours before opening the box and playing with the plants Karen gifted me. Yes, you can go to heaven without passing away (well, somewhat).

If I cannot get out and shop the plants come to me. How cool is that?


If you have physical limitations when gardening you are in my book.

Living With Limitations: A Secret Garden Center

Living With Limitations: A Secret Garden Center

Dicentra spectibalis Gold Heart

A Secret Garden Center

What if you had your very own secret garden center where only you were allowed to shop? An exclusive where you walked displays at your own pace and any question was immediately answered. Where you had first choice of any plant on display. Once your heart was set upon a plant you could immediately transplant it to companions in the garden. Next plants in line for delivery instantaneously of course. Kind of makes your toes tingle just thinking about it.

My Secret Garden Center Discovered

While doing early weeding and just walking my awakening garden receiving gardener’s visions, inspirations, stirrings, awakenings and downright revelations, the discovery was revealed to me.  That garden center has been here right in front of me all along. My own garden, no less.

My garden is well over 30 years old now and my mistakes managing to survive remain with me. Much of my garden career I purchased by impulse, brought the plant home and found a space for that poor perennial. I did not truly develop the discipline of design until some time later. That means there is a wealth of plants available to me that needs new locations, new companions to bring out their best. An entire pallet of color, shape, texture and size awaits.

Not For Long

But, that wait is not for long. My first realizations came as I considered emerging noses of Polygonatum sibiricum in a blue-stem form that will become an open colony of tall, upright stems with whorled foliage reaching five feet. All in a surprising and pleasing shade of powdered blue. Blooms are in tiny clusters at the leaf junction and not at all showy. The show is blue stems. Here they could stand another season unaccompanied, or become a part of something great.

Polygonatum sibericum blue stem form

Coming Together

I am considering moving the Solomon’s seal to a new location with more space, and arranging a collar of three Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’ surrounding the blue stems. Gold Heart bleeding hearts seemingly came from nowhere growing into 5 clumps. My guess is I threw out some pieces of roots left over from potting up for my old nursery. Imagine glowing yellow foliage reaching two feet in height and spread with arching stems of reddish tan. Blooms of heart-shape in pink with white contrast dangling along an arching stem like lockets on a line.

Some years back I ordered a Geranium maculatum ‘Espresso’ a cultivar of our native spotted geranium. It grew well first couple of years, then disappeared and I forgot all about it. Sometime later I began to see seedlings pop up true to its parent. I now have perhaps 5 or 6 small stands of this unique geranium with its chocolate/coffee over green large leaves reaching 5 inches across. Growing into a groundcover two feet across and about the same in height I think it will make a perfect companion to the collar of gold around the blue stemmed Solomon’s seal.

Hakone Grass All Gold

New Plants

Moved from random locations into companions the three perennials become new plants. I am truly looking forward to creating this new arrangement and already find myself looking at other perennials in a new light.

I walked by a stand of newly emerging Aconitum that I long ago forgot the name of. The Monkshood stands alone need a companion. There are stands of All Gold Hakonechloa grass that could be paired up so they would enhance each other. My new-found garden center seems to hold a wealth of new possibilities for my garden.

Now is an excellent time to read my new book. Just click on the book above to order your copy.

Living With Limitations: Snapback

Living With Limitations: Snapback

Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana withJacob’s Ladder

Bungee cord

Last week I told of quarantining myself due to age, health and the Covid-19 virus. To insure my staying at home I attached a bungee cord to my ankle that was to snap me back when I reached the end of my driveway. Well, it worked: and, only too well.


I had forgotten something I learned back in highschool: for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. I rather conveniently misremembered why I was quarantined and headed for a local garden center to pick up supplies. If I stayed in my auto, I told myself, no handshaking and hugs, I said to me, then all will be well. No direct contact, no catching anything. So, out I went.

At the end of the driveway I stretched the bungee cord past its set limits. There was a pause of no movement in either direction and then, in a second split finer than a frog hair, I snapped back. In an instant I was back where I began. Only now I was at the garden entrance with bungee cord wrapped around me and a post. Being tied up like that gave me time to think while untangling the cord.


I unwound an ignored aspect to my planned adventure to the garden center (and relief from the quarantine).  I was conveniently ignoring all the health officials and government advice to stay home with my diseases and age. If at risk of a disease that can kill in my condition, do I really need some fertilizer that bad?

Mertensia virginica, or Virginia Bluebells

With a Little Help from my Friends

I called in my order and asked them to hold for pickup and received a receipt by text. Not touching paper. The manager at the garden center knew my health condition and gave me a polite bit of advice about staying home as advised. She went the next step and volunteered to deliver the merchandise to my greenhouse, all stacked in its appropriate place so I would not have to touch anything for twenty-four hour period. Thank the gods for caring fellow gardeners and bungee cords.

Therapeutic Gardening

As a result of the caring garden center manager I had the supplies I needed to begin prepping my garden for spring. First up was to fertilize an acid bed with HollyTone and let that settle in when it rained the next day. I also began to feed the hydrangeas but ran out of time to get them all fed.

While fertilizing I saw numerous green noses needing deer spray and began ruining their appetite as best I could on plants I knew they would hit first. Number one would be any lilium that reached 2 inches or more. Once bitten there will be no bloom. Only early dormancy and more than likely less of a bloom next year. Along with trilliums hydrangea will be next on the list.

Corydalis malkensis


While performing maintenance there was more than ample reward. First of the Trout-Lilies (Erythronium) were opening. Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia) were in tight bud with almost purple-black foliage. Primula are beginning to bloom. Tiny Spring Beauties line the garden path along with various species and hybrids of Corydalis.


Perhaps a touch more common sense has been snapped back into my awareness of the seriousness of this virus. A bit of time, some patience along with a gracious gardener of two and we will get through all this with each other and our gardens.

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Living With Limitations: Isolated

Helleborus niger, Christmas Rose


Flu and the new virus Coronavirus have certainly changed the world in which we live and garden. To say the least, for me, it can be unnerving. I have COPD emphysema as well as some other ‘technical difficulties’ with my health, and I am in the middle of recovering from pneumonia.   Being the somewhat intelligent individual that I am, a decision was made not to get out there in the midst of all that potential danger. For the past month I have placed myself in quarantine. No traveling any further than my garden and end of my driveway. To insure my compliance I have attached a bungee cord to my ankle that snaps me back before leaving my home.

I would hope that, if at all possible, you are exercising good judgement in the midst of all this potential for illness.

If You Are a Gardener

Trout-Lily, or Erythronium americana withJacob’s Ladder

Isolation is not so bad if you are a gardener, so long as it does not stretch into delaying visits to garden centers. Thus far I have been scheming and drawing pictures, taking notes, ‘researching’ on the internet. Then outright and openly visiting every online nursery checking inventories and comparing to my gottahaves list. Then there are the plant searches that lead to nurseries I was not aware of with the need to check their inventories. As it turns out there were several plants added to my gottahaves list that I was not aware existed.

Then followed the serious and quite firm discussion with myself about ordering starter size plants. I am at the end of my active gardening career and time to grown on from plugs is now in the rear view mirror. The need now is garden centers where I can locate gallon and larger sizes. I know it limits actual purchases, but perhaps that is a sign from my accountant (wife).

Iris reticulata

Social Distancing

Thus far I have heeded my all advice from the experts and kept my distance for the outside world. But that does not include text, Messenger and phone calls to a local garden center. (My wife would say we are in “cahoots”). I have made arrangements to pick up supplies to kick off the spring season. Fertilizer for perennials, different one for shrubs and trees. Will need compost for transplanting new perennials, along with a new birdbath demanded by Mrs. Robin and her new brood. I also saw a large container in my favorite style and color and know exactly where it needs to be located. All I need to do now is pick a day to drive to the nursery. I will back my car in, they will load and I will hand over a check for the invoice already printed.

No getting close to another human being, out in the open, no handshakes, not elbow bumps: just grinning and spending money at a nursery. For now that is enough to complete a good garden day.


With the new supplies and a little decent weather to work in the garden cleaning up for this season I will be fully occupied and not notice (too much) being isolated from other gardeners. There is looking forward to thirty days from now when the big garden center day trip is planned. A full day of visiting selected premium garden centers with other gardeners.

Stay tuned and stay healthy. Remember soil under the fingernails is good therapy for body and soul.

 Click on the book cover above and get your copy to read while isolated.

Living With Limitations: Toxic Relationships

Living With Limitations:

Adonis amurensis and Hellebore x Garden Hybrid white

Toxic Relationships



This story goes back 3 to 4 years. Each spring I am reminded of its progress, but do what most gardeners do: procrastinate. I was vaguely aware of the situation, but only gave it a nod. Making a mental note that went something like “I really should do something about that” and moving on. After all, the relationship was only in the beginning stages and there were reasons not to disturb its growth as yet.


I was fortunate in locating and purchasing an Adonis amurensis ‘Chichibu Beni’ that had long been at the top of my up-front list, and without having to take out a second mortgage.  Adonis with their fern to feathery foliage in bright spring-green topped by saucer-like petals in yellow-orange with a hint of tan are set off by the yellow stamens in the center. What is not to lust after?

To the best of my knowledge this cultivar can only be propagated by division and they are not fast growers.  This not only means a high purchase price, but also you know the start will be small when received. I was tempted to name it “My Precious” when it arrived for transplanting.

In anticipation of My Precious’ arrival I had prepared a raised bed next to a mature white blooming hellebore. Several other Japanese woodlanders included in the order would play companion. The first year it emerged, but if I had not known where it was

located I would not have noticed the small sprout of green that quickly went dormant. The next year there was one bloom and it was small. The third year still only one bloom but overall the plant was larger and more robust. It also had a seedling hellebore that had germinated in the space intended for the Adonis. I did not want to disturb the Adonis roots so soon after transplanting so I let the relationship remain. The fourth year I saw a toxic relationship developing. The more assertive and robust hellebore was in the root system of the Adonis. They may have been a pretty couple together, but a gardener could see where this relationship would end up.


The Adonis may have been quite lovely to look at and seemingly quite delicate with its feathery foliage, but it was, once established, a perennial that could hold its own in the garden. However, the hellebore was an exceptional plant selected for its size and vigor. It was far too much for My Precious not to lose itself in the relationship and eventually fade away with its space and nutrients take up by the hellebore. If they were to

Helleborus thibetanus, Thibetan Hellebore buds emerging

flourish they will have to be separated and this year is the optimal time. The hellebore will become a gift to a gardener, and the Adonis, once dormant, will find a home with its own species in another bed. Its new companions will be yellow –blooming Adonis, snowdrops and a species hellebore H. tibetanus. All will grow together, go dormant together, with space to look and preform at their best without the threat of smothering.

In the 1970’s everyone was discovering the concept of personal space and their need of their space in a relationship. Looks like that still applies not only to both gardeners but their plants as well.


Coming Soon! All New Talk. Hosta Companions: Gene Answers the question what goes best with hosta? Book now for your choice of dates.