Weekend work: Time to get rid of leaves on hellebores


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The Independent Online

What to do

* It's time to get rid of the old leaves on your hellebores to allow the new buds pushing through from the base on their fat stems a clear space in which to develop.

* Watch out for a ghastly disease called black death which can infect Lenten hellebores. It's a viral infection that causes the surface of the leaves to become mottled and streaked with black, and there is no cure. All you can do is dig up the plant and burn it – a painful business .

* Hellebore leaf miner tunnels into the dark evergreen foliage of Helleborus foetidus leaving behind silvery traces of its progress. It's not fatal and when the hellebore has finished flowering, you can clean up the plant by cutting off the flowering stems together with the leaves that cluster round the head.

* Plan to produce your own supply of holly. It must have berries of course and if you only have room for one, plant 'J C van Tol', which is a female variety but self-fertile. That means it will produce berries even if there is no male tree close by.

What to get

* Why we ever needed to import the ash, I don't understand – it self-seeds prolifically. The result of imports has been the voracious alien fungus Chalara fraxinea. The Forestry Commission is keen to be told about infected trees. To learn what you're supposed to be looking for, get the free app and report diseased trees at ashtag.org.