Potluck Hellebores

Eleven tiny Hellebore sprouts have been successfully repotted and transported to Spring Cottage for a bank of winter colour some years hence

It’s difficult to find the correct attribution for the often-quoted aphorism ‘A society grows great when old men plant trees under whose shade they will never sit.’ But Roger Pearse has made a good stab at the challenge, and believes that the line can be attributed to a Quaker thinker, D. Elton Trueblood, in his book of moralising published in 1951. Not an ancient Greek proverb then, nor a wise comment from an Indian guru passed down through the ages.

I don’t think anyone has had great profound thoughts about bringing on Hellebores, but we do know they seem to be fiendishly difficult to germinate. So the appearance of a potluck batch of ten seedlings on eBay was a cause for celebration by one of us, and the little package arrived with an extra one, just in case. The seedlings were labelled ‘potluck’ because they were the adventitious result of self-seeding (no germination challenge there then!) but who could know what they’ll eventually look like when they mature?

If we consider the image carefully, we might persuade ourselves that there are three varieties, based on the leaf colours. Or two. Just a small soupçon of variety, perhaps, to look forward to. Some years down the road we hope to see what the mature plant looks like.

Meanwhile, never knowing from one day to the next what challenges await, we are a bit like the old person who plants a tree for the next generation to find shade under. You could say that the very act of gardening is a kind of contract with the future.

And that thought somehow fills me with a joy that should carry me through the day, and on into the second half of this joy-filled year.

2 responses to “Potluck Hellebores”

  1. Larry, I like your idea of planting being a contract with future generations. You caused ne to think of the plantings of John Chapman (1774 – 1845) aka Johnny Appleseed. He started Apple orchards knowing that he would not see the end result. He introduced apple trees to parts of PA, OH, IN, IL and Ontario. Perhaps you or I have eaten apples from areas where he planted the first apple orchards. I’m thinking that the seeds he used for saplings came from Great Britain. John Chapman may not have articulated the idea but wouldnt you say he planted having a contract with future generations?


  2. I would agree with you, Henry, and I remember the stories of Johnny Appleseed very well. There have been very many strains of apples here in the UK, many of which have probably gone extinct since Appleseed planted his seeds. I wonder if he also has contributed to the saving of these strains, possibly? Incidentally, do you know that Dolly Parton song AppleJack? https://genius.com/Dolly-parton-applejack-lyrics Talk about saving of a culture and/or a memory of a way of life.


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