Favorite or New Plant
The Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) is a very hardy perennial (to USDA Zone 3) that grows 15 to 30 inches tall. It has handsome, dark, leathery leaves divided into seven leaflets, which are reliably evergreen where winter lows do not dip much below 10 degrees F. The single flowers -- borne one, two, or three to a stalk -- are a warm white, faintly touched with shell pink and crowded with gold stamens. As with all hellebores, the showy part of the Christmas rose is made up not of petals but of sepals.
Christmas rose blooms reliably at Christmas time in our climate, and I find it magical to find them in bloom surrounded by a mantle of crusty snow. Mud is their only enemy; splashes of it stain their purity. I find that a thick mulch applied in autumn eliminates the problem. In colder winter areas, Christmas rose blooms in early spring.
Grow hellebores in light to deep shade, in well-drained, humus-rich soil. I think they look best in small groups or massed as ground covers under tall shrubs.
Tool or Gardening Product
SMARTrap Moth Traps
Enticing new lures developed by Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists could make backyard gardens, fruit orchards, and crop fields places of no return for pesky caterpillars. The lures, derived from molasses and floral odors, tantalize both male and female moths with the promise of nectar. Instead, the insects fly into the opening of a lure-dispensing trap, never to escape.
Most lures on the market depend on the male moth's sense of smell. These lures work by dispensing a synthetic version of the female moth's chemical sex attractant, or pheromone, which the males find irresistible. Saturating the air with synthetic pheromone confuses the male moths, disrupting their ability to find mates. Such lures also are used to monitor the pests' movements and whereabouts. But most lures offer no way of keeping tabs on the female moths, according to researchers.
The new lures contain blends of volatile compounds from molasses combined with various floral scents, including those from Oregon grape, honeysuckle, and gaura flowers that attract both sexes of moths. The molasses-derived lure is now commercially available for garden use as the product SMARTrap.
SMARTrap uses an LED light and chemical attractants to catch moths. The light turns on automatically at dusk, off at dawn. The trap sells for $30 and includes two attractant cartridges: one floral (yellow) attractant, the other a sugar (green) attractant. Complete instructions are included. One trap hung about 10 inches above the ground protects up to 150 sq. ft. of garden.
SMARTraps are available at most garden centers and online from Gardener's Supply (http://www.gardeners.com).