Beautiful Roses Made Easy
Jackson & Perkins has released a new series of six regionally specific books on rose care -- Beautiful Roses Made Easy. The Mid-Atlantic and New England edition is written by Teri Dunn, Andre Viette and Mark Viette (Cool Springs Press, 2003; $19.99). While there are references to J&P varieties, the book is mostly an objective care guide that's clear and thorough, with good photos and illustrations. I especially liked the discussion of climatic differences within the region and how they affect rose hardiness.
Favorite or New Plant
The nodding pink flowers of my hellebores surprise me every spring when they emerge to accompany the daffodils in bloom. While several species of hellebores are available, the most common in our region are the hybrids of Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). They are carefree plants, easily started from seed, not terribly fussy about soil as long as it doesn't remain soggy. They prefer some shade and make a lovely ground cover under deciduous trees.
The Lenten rose comes in shades of pink, red, white, lavender, yellow, and purple-black. What we think of as the flowers are actually sepals, which last well into summer. All parts of the plant are poisonous, even the sap, which can irritate the skin, though I've never experienced a problem with it. Even though the foliage is evergreen, some people recommend removing the leaves in fall to prevent the potential spread of black spot. Also, it can look ratty after a long winter. New foliage will quickly take its place in spring.