The lack of light and large amount of rainfall this time of year can really play havoc on the spirit, but I need to be reminded that all those spring bulbs and plants are being restored from the rather dry winter that we’ve had.
The snowdrops are in the throes of giving us a spectacular show, but in their shadows and underneath the rotting and slippery leaves are some of my favourite plants already pushing up their sculptural heads up through their leaf mould blankets. Of course, it’s none other than the hellebore!
I was very fortunate enough to be introduced to the very modest Ella, the daughter of Helen Ballard who was renowned for devoting 30 years to producing extraordinary hellebores. Helen’s father-in-law Ernest Ballard was the first to start of this collection with the infamous Helleborus ‘Ballard’s Black’ which then went on to be cross bred by Helen who created the Ballard’s Group and was then know as The Hellebore Queen. Old Country Farm was the home of Helen Ballard and is where these hellebores began life, the farmhouse is now available as a B&B and the garden feels like you’ve gone back in time, perhaps even discovering your very own hellebore. It has a wonderful sense of place and beauty, the hellebores have self seeded and I’m told by Ella that her mother wouldn’t like many of the hellebores that have cross bred each other, thinning out the dark, rich flower that she so loved. The carpet of luxurious chocolate and palest of pink flowers, whose petals look so sculptural, absolutely fascinate me and to view them at ground level was glorious.
I loved the ‘back in time’ feel that surrounded me there, from the trace of ivy that crept up the door to the pathway where those beauties now to push through, shifting bricks and allowing moss to cover the ground, giving a soft green carpet background for the seedling. This is a truly magical place to be, being steeped in history adds so much charm to the mysterious surroundings.
As a child I used to adore roaming around derelict farms and buildings, thriving on the feeling of being the only visitor for years, pretending that I was discovering something no one else had, capturing evidence of how time has stood still. Even though Old Country Farm isn’t derelict the feeling of history is overwhelming and utterly charming. The farm is surrounded by orchards and amongst this land thrive rare and unusual birdlife, which is something that captivates Ella, we enjoyed a cup of tea on her veranda and lost track of time just watching and listening to the rare and busy birds that were getting about their daily duties. I’ve completely digressed, but I hope this is has given you a taste of life that surrounds these historic hellebores whose beauty and grace, with luck, will quietly continue to be appreciated for years to come.
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Here is a link to Ella’s website, a spring visit will be abundant with birdlife, blossom & of course hellebores.