In the Garden

Q: I like to make winter-flower arrangements. I have seen the flowers of Lenten rose in flower arrangements, but when I cut them, they simply wilt.

A: It’s quite difficult to prevent the flowers of Oriental hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus) from wilting when you cut them if you don’t know the trick.

Experts recommend singeing the cut end of the stem with a match, or putting the cut end in boiling water, but those methods rarely work.

The best method to keep these spectacular flowers from wilting is actually quite simple. Wait until the stamens fall off before you cut them. The stamens are the threadlike, male flower parts that carry the pollen in the center of the flower. These threads fall off when the flower matures.

As long as you wait until the stamens fall off before cutting the stem, the cut flowers of Lenten rose often last up to two weeks or longer in a bouquet.

As a side note, there is a beautiful way to exhibit your Lenten rose flowers before the stamens fall off. Cut the blossoms, leaving about an inch of stem on each one. Then simply float the flowers in a bowl. By mixing and matching colors and textures, you can make such gorgeous combinations, Monet would have been proud to call them his own.

Q: They keep coming up with great new varieties of Lenten rose. I’m running out of shady areas to plant them. How much sun can these hellebores handle?

A: Welcome to the “running out of room for new Lenten roses club.” I am also addicted to the ever increasing stunning varieties of Lenten rose (Helleborus x hybridus).

It was hard enough resisting the urge to buy too many of these beautiful late winter bloomers when they came mostly only in red and pink, but now it’s impossible. There are so many spectacular introductions featuring flowers with such rich saturated colors, it’s becoming impossible to leave the nursery without another new variety.

Some real dazzlers include ‘Apricot blush’, sporting single blossoms of rosy yellow and apricot-orange; ‘Golden Lotus,’ resplendent with double bright-yellow blossoms splashed with touches of red; or the highly unusual and stunning, bluish green streaked burgundy flowers of ‘Jade Star.’

Can’t decide on a color? Then give ‘Double Ladies Mix’ a try. It comes with double blossoms in shades of pink, red, purple, yellow and white, all on the same plant.

The general rule is that Lenten rose can handle full sun in coastal areas, but if you live in warmer conditions, you’re better off giving them partial shade. Planted in too much sun, the leaves tend to yellow, and flower color is less intense and washed out looking.

By the way, have you seen the huge burgundy flowers on ‘Anna’s Red’? Maybe you should just move to a shadier location!

Ciscoe Morris: ciscoe@ciscoe.com “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.