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Hello everyone

I'm a new gardener and I wondered if some more experienced people have any advice.

I have moved to a new house and large garden. The garden is southwest facing and has quite a large shady area. It is shady partly because it only gets the sun for a few hours and partly because there is a massive oak tree, the canopy of which extends over most of one end of the garden. The rest of the garden gets the sun for between a third and the whole of the day.

Ive read a lot in this forum about gardening in shady areas so I thought that In the shade/dappled shade area I could make a "woodland garden"  and have been compiling a list of possible plants to grow there. One of the plants I've read could be good is Helleborus.

Today I noticed that a couple of the "mystery plants" already growing in the shady area are Helleborus. They are quite large but their leaves are very tattered and holey and they don't seem particularly happy. Also I've been here since May but I haven't seen them flower.

Does anyone have any advice as to things I could do to care for these established plants and make them happier? The previous owners did not to any gardening at all so the plants have not been watered, mulched, fed etc for years and also they are sharing the area with rather a lot of brambles and bindweed (which I plan to remove!). 

Also, does anyone have any stories to share of neglected gardens they have taken over and transformed that could give me inspiration for where the heck to even start with this garden?! 

Thank you so much to anyone who replies  

Stacey Docherty

Verdun is the one to answer this thread.... You could trim the damaged leaves off now they should produce more in the new year.. They tend to flower jan, feb time so they would have finished by the time you moved in. A good mulch and dig in some well rotted compost around them won't hurt. Hellebores suffer from something called black spot cut off any leaves that are affected ( I had to cut mine down 2/3 last year) they will come back...... That's about my knowledge on them.... Welcome to the forum how exciting waiting to see what colour they are.....


Welcome Phasmid 

This garden had once been home to a keen gardener, but as she had become old and infirm the garden had been neglected, and then the next owner just blitzed everything, except the rampant ivy which grew up the house, up the trees and make the fences 6 feet wide.  We moved here 2 years ago and bit by bit we are bringing it back to life - the ivy has been dug out, the fences renewed, the lawn and trees cared for, and little jewels are appearing - at the moment the banks and lawn are covered with tiny white Cyclamen hederafolium - such a welcome sight - and in the spring a variety of different aquilegia appeared, popping up all over the place.  I'm glad you found your Hellebores 

My guess is that your hellebores are probably quite happy where they are - their leaves will look old and tatty at this time of year - I usually cut the old ones off when I'm tidying the garden up for the winter.  You've not seen any flowers yet because they usually flower between Christmas and Easter - in fact some are called Christmas Rose, and others the Lenten Rose.  

Clearing the ground around them of weeds is a good idea, but keep your eyes open for baby hellebores - tiny versions of the tatty old leaves you have now - hellebores happily self seed around themselves.  If you find some you can pot them up in a humous-rich loamy compost and keep them in an airy coldframe until they are big enough to plant out.  When you've weeded you can mulch around (not over) the mature plants with leaf mould, compost or well-rotted farmyard manure.  They will be even happier than they are now.

And then, when the cold weather comes you'll keep inspecting them for new shoots coming from the ground, and eventually there will be your hellebores - when they appear take some pics and post them on here to show us please - we like happy endings 

But it might also be the start of an obsession - there are many varieties of hellebores, some are hardy and some need special care .... watch out, you might become another hellebore obsessive 

Oh, and while I'm about it, keep your eyes open for signs of hedgehogs - a neglected garden is very likely to have at least one resident - we have them visit our terrace every evening.  Please don't tidy the garden too much - leave piles of twigs and dry leaves in sheltered corners for the hedgehogs to hibernate in. 

Lots of info here 

Good luck 

Stacey Docherty

When I moved into my house I marveled at the flowers until I walked round and noticed they were plastic!!!! 


Thank you for the advice Dovefromabove and nutcutlet and Stacy and to everyone for the stories! Plastic flowers?!?!?!?! I'm really pleased to have some guidelines to follow with the Hellebores and will definitely post a photo when they flower. 

I've been looking out for hedgehogs but haven't spotted one yet, we used to have them in my old tiny garden but not here which is strange because the garden backs onto woodland and there is a hole in the fence where they could get in easily  

I've made a big pile of twigs, grass, wood etc and a few other piles of stuff so hopefully they will appear soon! If not at least there's plenty of hibernation spots for insects!



It sounds a lovely garden - can we see some photos of how it is now? 

I feel sadly superfluous....ha ha. 

Phasmid, warm welcome to the forum. ,the advice above is what I would have given.  Hellebores do look less than perfect at this time of the year for different reasons...diseased leaves, eaten leaves, battered leaves etc.

Its not crucial exactly when you cut off those leaves but anytime in Ocfober to early December I think is best.  In late wimter the huge flower buds will appear at soil level and continue to grow to about 2 to 4' feet when they finally flower in early spring.  For me they start in late December.  The flowers will appear then the leaves so flowers will be beautifully and "nakedly" displayed....!

If you cut those leaves off mark the crowns with short cane.  Remove all dead and dying leaves, clean the area and give a feed of organic fertilser and a mulch of compost or dried manure.

You may be surprised to see,what else comes up in your garden so just let each new season,come and go.

For me hellebores are addictive.  A wide range of colours ..... doubles and singles too.  Evergreen foliage and they get better every year.  Nice with bulbs too.


2 - 4 ft Verdun!  Whatever do you mulch yours with???  



that's 18" in east anglia speak Dove

Hmmmm!   Maybe 3' then.  Some of my purples are very tall though.  I guess I may have exaggerated at 4'.   Out of interest I will take a measurement.....we are talking flower,height here.   But I am just a simple man   ......if any  are 4' I will brag 

Thank you everyone! I shall tackle the Hellebores tomorrow! DfromA I'll try and post some photos of the garden as it is currently (have not done this before so hopefully nothing disastrous will happen...) Verdun, I'm glad you've commented too - your reputation precedes you




 I'm not a very good photographer but I think these give the general idea. Any ideas welcome - as you can see it's basically one big lawn right now. I've done a few bits though (and learnt a few lessons!). 


A garden full of potential and promise!  To me that seating area is crying out for a pergola covered with climbers (roses, clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine)  but that's probably not the first job to do.  

With that woodland behind and access through the fence I'll bet you do have a visiting hedgehog - keep your eye open for black hedgehog poo on the lawn. (An inch to two inches long - dryish).  


Verdun wrote (see)

Hmmmm!   Maybe 3' then.  ....  But I am just a simple man   ......if any  are 4' I will brag 

Of course you will Verdun - we would expect you to 

My helleborus was covered by other plants and got very wet. I dug it up and put it inside and thought I had saved it because 2 new leaves started coming up, but now  1 leaf has completely wilted and the other one is going the same way. What has gone wrong? Or is that normal at this time of the year?




It doesn't like being indoors - that's what is making it sad - it's tough as old boots and only happy when it's outside - plant it in the garden in a patch that's got lots of organic matter/leafmould etc in the soil and semi-shade.  It'll be happy then

Took opportunity today to measure height of one of my hellebores, a purple variety.  A shade over 93 cm.  it's growing in full sun But in good moist soil. 

Melanie, your hellebore will hate being indoors but you had reason to dig it up didn't you?  Replant in dappled shade or even in sun but make sure you dig a generous hole...twice the size of your plant at least.  Mix garden compost, dried manure, bark but try to get some mushroom compost too.  Make a good organic planting medium and add a good granular fertiliser like fish blood and bone. Water in well.  Mulch when new growth is establishing. 


I think it is important to remember that it is only the leaves of H.orientalis that need cutting back.

H,foetidus and H.corsicus should not have their leaves removed.


Once the flower buds start appearing, you should cut the leaves down to the ground. If you watch GW that is what they do.

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