… on gardening in the shade

That’s a hellebore.

They are funky and strangely mysterious and I love them.

Here are some more…

Very cool.

There are oodles of myths and legends surrounding hellebores – some good, some not so good. Mostly, this has to do with their properties… toxic or medicinal.

Apparently, throughout history, it’s been all about how one looks at it.

For instance, one legend says that a quick-thinking healer administered hellebore to King Midas’ daughters and saved their lives. Supposedly, this was necessary when a cranky God – Dionysis – pulled the ‘all powerful’ thing and the girls ended up screaming and running around the streets naked.

It was hellebore that supposedly cured their insanity.

I, myself, am thinking this may have been the very first appearance of the women’s liberation movement, squashed by some dude with a smidge of pharmacological knowledge. But I suppose it could have been insanity. Young women are complicated.

So, score one for a positive use of hellebore.


In 585 B.C., the Greeks went all ‘dark arts’ when they seized Kirrah. Rumor is that they crushed up a whole bunch of hellebore and added it to the water supply, causing so many explosive cases of … er… stomach upset that it was wicked easy for the Greeks to take the whole place over.

I know, that was just mean.

And also messy.

Let’s balance that one out with a sweet hellebore tale (it seems to be one of the more well known ones)…

A young peasant girl in the mountains was overcome with love and faith and hope at the birth of Jesus, and wanted to bring a gift to the baby. She realized she had nothing to give and began to cry. As her tears fell onto the ground, an angel took notice and used her juju. Suddenly the most beautiful white flowers rose from the earth.

The flowers, allegedly, were hellebores. And those specific hellebores are now known as Christmas Roses. Hellebores, in general, are also known as Lenten Roses.

But guess what?

This rose is not a rose. It is a buttercup! Well, okay. It is a member of the buttercup family, masquerading as a rose. Which is botanical social-climbing.

But I digress.

I have loved hellebores for a very long time and have never planted them. The other day, sick of the cold and the wet and the grey, my friend and I headed to a garden center where we spied many plants that – sure – we cannot plant in the ground (yet), but we acquired anyway. I came away from our journey with 5 hellebore plants, in bloom.

My not-yet-ready-for-planting hellebores now spend the days outside getting ‘hardened‘ (oh yeah, that’s a real term), and the nights inside the potting room where I beg them to forgive me for leaving them outside all day in the cold.

I am told that, once they are in the ground and get all cozy, they will happily spread themselves all over and be one of the very first plants to flower each spring.

I can’t wait.

I imagine them amongst the ferns, beckoning fairies and drawing them near. They’ll whisper, I think.

I realized this morning, as I was setting my hellebores outside (and re-apologizing to each of them) that they are plants for shade gardens. I mean, I already knew they were shade-appreciative plants, and I’ve chosen the perfect spot for them. It was more that I realized I am about to create a bit of a garden vignette in the shade.

I’ll be gardening… in the shade.

I’ve been gardening…

In the shade.

Because that’s what grief is.

Whether for beloved humans, or dogs (or cats or birds or lizards or pigs or…).

Grief for those who were once part of our everydays, but who are now not, at least in the ways we wish they were.



See and feel and hear and smell and touch-able.



The warmth of life’s sun feels blocked, clouded somehow. And we yearn for it.

We look skyward, searching the heavens.

Ask and wonder and wish and beg.

Threaten and accuse and plead and bargain.

Spin and ponder and process.

At some point though, we pull our eyes down to earth and have a look around.

We notice that the darkness is not, in fact, lightless.

And we see, as we dig a little and unearth a little, that there is still beauty.

Memories and laughter and the true joy begin to vine themselves through and between loss and living.

At some point – even when we think we might never – we find ourselves taking life by the hand again, and stepping into what it has become.

A new path through a redesigned garden.

Brought into being…

From somewhere in the shade.

Thanks for readin’.

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