GINA PARKINSON sings the praises of hellebores.

HELLEBORES make their mark in our gardens at this time of year with lovely Christmas and Lenten roses and the lime-green flowers of Helleborus foetidus and argutifolius.

Lenten roses or Helleborus orientalis are very popular and flower in a range of colours from greenish white through to deepest purple, the darker-flowered forms often having correspondingly dark foliage. The deep-hued bloomed plants are sought after and used to be hard to find but they are becoming much more easily available in nurseries and garden centres.

Helleborus foetidus and argutifolius each have cup-shaped green flowers held above their leaves in late winter and spring. H.foetidus is a smaller plant with dark-green finely cut leaves with maroon-edged, pale-green flowers that can have a strange smell, hence the botanical name of the plant.

The common name is stinking hellebore but this seems a little unfair so don’t let the name put you off this plant which forms a neat clump and gently self-seeds around the garden.

Helleborus argutifolius is a large plant that tends to sprawl so needs more space than its relatives described above.

Nevertheless, its evergreen leaves give plenty of winter interest and the stout stems topped with large, often upward-facing green flowers give an early wow factor in a bed.

We have a couple of plants squeezed under a hedge in a shady part of the garden which isn’t ideal since they constantly fall over and are hard to support. But they are mature plants and I am hesitant to move them for fear of damage so there they have stayed for a few years.

A better spot for these lovely plants is in a semi shaded place in moist, good soil with plenty of space for them to fill. Perhaps once ours finish flowering I’ll take the plunge and move them somewhere more appropriate.

In the veg patch

Last week me and the under gardener had a week’s holiday so we set to and emptied and cleaned the greenhouse and began sowing vegetable seeds.

Beetroot, chard, spinach, broad beans and runner beans are all safely nestling in their pots of compost in the tidy greenhouse.

Most of these could be sown direct but we never seem to do well with this method. Pigeons and mice are the suspects, the birds eating any seedlings that manage to avoid seed thieving rodents.

The greenhouse is unheated and the door is left open so it is a bit early to put any tomatoes in there yet. These have been sown and are being kept indoors until they are big enough to harden off and go into their growbags later in spring.

An honourable mention should be made in this dispatch to the above mentioned under gardener who tackled the cleaning of the greenhouse with gusto.

After emptying it, the windows and frame were scrubbed inside and out with Jeyes fluid and rinsed. It looks great but I suspect the enthusiasm will have waned when the job needs doing again because the cleaning fluid smells disgusting and we reeked of it for days.

Weekend catch up

Fritillarias are coming up so it is time to begin the daily check for lily beetles. We have a very small clump growing under our ancient plum tree. Last year they were destroyed by these pests, so this spring I have been on the lookout for the small bright-red beetles. They are easy to spot and need to be squashed straight away.

Open Gardens

Sunday April 19

In aid of the National Gardens Scheme.

Acorn Cottage, Church Street, Boston Spa, LS23 6DN. Fine collection of alpine plants and bulbs collected by three generations to give a garden full of spring delights. Open 12.30pm-5pm, combined admission with Four Gables (see below) £4.

Ellerker House, Everingham, YO42 4JA. Five acre garden on sandy soil with spring bulbs, mature trees, woodland walkway around a lake, herbaceous border and several seating areas plus a formal lawn and traditional oak and thatched breeze house.

There will also be a Rare Plant Fair with 11 stalls selling a range of plants including shrubs, perennials, alpines, hostas and ferns.

Parkinson’s UK will also have a stand at the garden showing how money raised for them is spent and the support they are able to offer their clients. Parkinson’s UK is the guest charity of the NGS this year. Open 10am-4pm, admission £4.50.

Four Gables, Oaks Lane, Boston Spa, LS23 6DS. Seven gardens in one in this half ace plot with specimen trees, dicentra, hellebores, aquilegia, ponds, a deep well, 30ft wood sculpture and a courtyard with raised beds and seating. Open 12.30pm-5pm, combined admission with Acorn House (see above) £4.

Jackson’s Wold, Sherburn, Malton, YO17 8QJ. Two-acre garden with shrub roses underplanted with unusual perennials, woodland paths leading to further borders, a lime avenue with wild flower meadow, and a vegetable garden with a Victorian greenhouse. Adjoining nursery also open. Open 1pm-5pm, admission £3.

Wednesday April 22

Country garden planted for year round interest and colour with winding paths leading through smaller gardens each with a different planting theme. There are hidden aeas with seating and a gravel courtyard with a small, formal pond. This garden is new to the NGS. Open 1pm-5pm, admission £3.50.

Gardening TV and Radio

7.35am, BBC2, The A to Z of TV Gardening. This week the programme looks at the letter B.

8am, BBC Radio Humberside, The Great Outdoors. With Blair Jacobs and Doug Stewart.

8am, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. The programme celebrates the magnolia family.

8am, Vale Radio, Down to Earth. With Willian Jenkyns. Find the programme on 8.30am, BBC2, The Beechgrove Garden. Sowing broad beans.

9am, BBC Radio York, Julia Lewis. Gardening related news and features from around North Yorkshire.

9am, BBC Radio Leeds, Tim Crowther and Joe Maiden.

2pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. From Warwickshire.

Friday April 24

3pm, BBC R4, Gardeners’ Question Time. A postbag edition with Eric Robson and his team of gardening experts.

8.30pm, BBC2, Gardeners’ World. Monty Don shows how to lift and divide ornamental grasses. Plus red hot pokers growing in the wild in South Africa.