The Maddening Middle Of March

The middle of March-would that I could sleep it off. March is still winter in Michigan. It is 30 degrees during the day, and can be in the teens at night. Like it will be tonight. Every gardener in my zone is marching to a tune that plays the following refrain over and over again-the winter is not over yet. No, not yet. Unlike that spectacular snow from a week ago, our snow now is dirty and frozen. The snow barely liquifies during the day, and then refreezes at night. Horrifyingly heavy icy globs of snow have bent over sections of my boxwood and yews in an alarming way. There is little movement towards the new season.  Maddening, this.

The soil is slowly thawing. And it is sopping wet. I would not step foot in my garden right now. My weight would drive precious oxygen out of the soil. Or I would crush the crown of a plant that I cannot see yet. March is all about those things that cannot be done yet. It is a terrible state of affairs to be ready for something that is on hold. Who likes to be put on hold? No one.

Rob organizes a helleborus festivalis at the shop in March, aimed at those gardeners who are struggling to cope with the last of the dregs of the winter. I admire his positive approach. As unwilling as I am to let go of my seasonal grumpiness, I can’t help but appreciate his representation of early spring. The cut branches of pussy willow, prairie and fan willow are beautiful. When the time comes, they will grace many a spring pot.

But the hellebores are the star of the show. Our greenhouse is chock full of them in bloom. We shop all over the country to bring this alternative experience of a Michigan March to gardeners in our area. Hellebores are amazingly adaptable to being kept indoors for a few weeks, until they can be planted in the garden in April. I will confess to have kept a collection of juvenile hellebores indoors until mid May before planting them out. They handled being stuck indoors for 2 months without a hitch.

The hellebores from growers in more temperate zones than ours provide respite from our inhospitable weather. The smell of green plants is such a relief. A lot of excited talk goes on in this greenhouse over the course of the day.

I have a special affection for the hellebore Madame Lemonnier. The flowers are exceptionally large and side facing. The plants are vigorous, and will form very showy clumps in the garden. The hellebores that are commonly known as Lenten Roses are completely hardy in our zone. My helleborus orientalis hybrids are buried under several feet of snow in my garden. But the cultivars in our greenhouse are a spectacular spring preview.

The hellebores we have available for sale right now cannot be planted into the garden for another 3 weeks. But they will thrive indoors until the worst of the winter weather has passed. If you can provide good light, air circulation, and water, they will keep you company until the both of you can be outdoors.

The dressiest way to enjoy them is to plant them up in containers. In this form, they can be moved outdoors to a front porch or terrace when the night temperatures moderate. Hellebore flowers are tiny and modest.  What appear to be petals are actually modified leaves that will mature and persist on the plant long after the flowers have finished blooming.

The flower in the center of this picture has finished blooming, but the sepals have retained their size and color. Rob plants up containers featuring hellebores every day this time of year. A container version of a garden looks good in March. More of Rob’s late winter containers are to follow.

hellebores and cyclamen

hellebores in containers

green hellebore planted up

Rob has seen to stocking other natural, preserved and dried materials for spring pots. Our cut pussy willow branches are terrific this year. Our faux stems are fun. If you are a gardener who longs for the start of the spring season, try our shop. Shrug off March. We are ready, even if the garden is not quite there yet.

Welcome to our version of spring.


  1. This post is a gift to a winter weary soul. Thank you.

    • What she said!

      • Ditto to many of the comments above. Deborah, Your shop looks fabulous and couldn’t agree more with Judy on the gorgeous green pot. Would look fabulous on my front porch! Oh, the shipping costs-will look locally to find something similar…once we get through another nor’ Easter predicted to hit our area mid week. Oh boy! Do most hellebores grow so tall, or is there a specific plant? The pic of Milo is priceless!

  2. Inger Berit Eilertsen says

    I love your wonderful display. Just like a candy store for me.

  3. Lovely! We are in SW MI as well and my hellebores are still somewhere under the snow. I do find that watching the birds in March gets me through the worst of it. The goldfinches are just starting to turn yellow again. The red-winged blackbirds and sandhills are back and making noise in the marsh behind our house. The bluebirds, especially on the past couple of snowy days, are sticking close to the peanut nugget feeder. All signs that spring is near, even if it doesn’t feel like it!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Sarah, thank you for your letter about the late winter birds. Just yesterday I watched a woodpecker at work outside my window. He was focused, and serious. The voices and the actions of the birds is a sure sign of spring. Thank you for your letter. best regards, Deborah

  4. kate boschetto says

    Mornin’ on this PI day …3.14 , my Birthday ! After almost 2 feet of Snow yesterday , outside of Boston , this Post was a delight to start the Day ! Time to dig out once again from our Blizzard . The Shop looks Beautiful , one of my Favorite things to do is to go to Garden Centers . Yours is on my Bucket List . Spring will Come !!!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Hello Kate, on this Pi day.I am happy to hear from you. You are on my bucket list. Ha! May we meet up someday. regards, Deborah

  5. Michaele Anderson says

    Your shop looks very welcoming and inspiring this time of year. And the greenhouse filled with hellebore in bloom must feed the souls of all those who enter. I join you in singing Madame Lemonnier’s praises. I bought several young plants last fall and didn’t expect any flowers this first late winter. I was very pleasantly surprised. They were early and generous bloomers and I love how visible the flowers are.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Michaele, thanks for writing. This last of the winter is easier to bear, given some gardening friends. all the best, Deborah

  6. Jennifer Taylor says

    The newly painted shop looks fresh and lovely as always!

  7. This post is a gift to a winter weary soul. Thank you. + 1

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Nancy, it is good to know we all have winter weary company. That makes the load lighter. best, Deborah

  8. Jane cruickshank says

    Move over Milo….♥️

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Jane, Milo is an energetic and friendly dog that all of our customers like. He is so happy when you come to visit! There is no way to tell him that he made the cover of Midwest Living Magazine. Not that I would want to tell him. I like how he concentrates on saying a sincere hello many times a day. best, Deborah

  9. lisa narozanick says

    Oh How I wish I lived nearby!!!!! The shop looks magnificent! Southern NJ March is hideous. However we get spoiled with the famous Phila Flower Show, only to leave the steamy, greenhouse decorated building to face a Nor’easter!!

  10. Oh, such a fine, well written essay on spring!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Rob, spring is not always what we expect. It can be darned difficult. I am looking forward to better days. Ha! best, Deborah

  11. Jill Banfield says

    Hi Deborah I just stopped in the other day for the exact reasons that you state. To smell fresh plants, look around at gardening supplies, think about spring containers, and pick up a few plants to carry me through the last of this maddening waiting period. Love your shop and everything you and Rob do! Thank you as always.

  12. I moved south as soon as I could, decades ago, to Texas to get away from the cold. Our daughter was raised here but moved to the Detroit area a couple years ago. The first winter was, ‘meh, this isn’t so bad’, but this winter I hear her tune changing. They’re renovating a house in Southfield, & besides the construction delays that are keeping them out, she’s longing to get going on the yard. She’s pulled mountains of vines and ferns, so it’s no longer a jungle. Your shop is a real inspiration to her, I could see the wheels turning as she stopped here & there. We both loved your living wall. I didn’t dare tell her how hot I got at our community garden workday Saturday (it was 90), but she can rub it in in July when I’m thoroughly tired of the heat & drought.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Wendy, gardening is tough work.Your daughter will figure that out. So pleased that she shops my shop. We try hard to encourage young people. best regards, Deborah

  13. OMG I want that big beautiful green pot under the table in picture #15

  14. cathy bandoian says

    I love your dog…reminds me of my border collie Nemo who just passed on…same sweet face.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Cathy, Milo does have a border collie look, especially given his long hair. So sorry for the loss of your Nemo.I will say that Milo’s breeder named him Nemo when he was 8 weeks old. Imagine that. The loss of a beloved dog is so tough. I have been there, and I understand y our grief. best, Deborah

  15. Lisa Barnett says

    I cannot wait to come in to see the Hellebores! I bought one for my girlfriend for her March birthday a couple of years ago and this year I want to come in to purchase one for myself 🙂

  16. Beautiful hellebores —-almost as exciting as seeing your cover boy Milo on MIDWEST LIVING magazine!

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear Mary, we were so thrilled about the cover and article in Midwest Living Magazine! Milo seems to be taking it in stride. He is the most friendly and amiable dog it has ever been my pleasure to be owned by! best regards, Deborah

  17. Such a delightful post! Especially after experiencing 3 northeasters in 2 weeks. My hellebore collection is under 2 feet of fresh snow with another winter storm expected next week. This is the Winter from Hell. The damage to trees and shrubs is very discouraging. Thank you so much, I have added all the hellebore plants that you mention to my shopping list. Yes, I am compensating for Winter.

  18. Linda Gallinatti says

    You have done it again! Inspiration. And, one of my favorite plants now in the garden are my collection of hellebores that also fill YOUR SHOP. Plus your gorgeous containers. Would love to be checking it out before the crowds come to purchase it all.
    Keep us posted with the next phase.
    Linda Gallinatti, Tacoma, Wa.

  19. Diane Smith says

    Deborah. The cover and the article in Midwest Living with Milo was great and came at the perfect time. Was just sharing with a friend your wonderful business you have and knew she would really appreciate your Italian European influence when my magazine arrived. Winter has been long….. Wish I lived closer.

  20. Marcia Koetter says

    Hi Deborah. I’ve read your posts and am interested in the pottery you import. I am searching for urns with a weathered patina. They need to have handles, representing water jugs from biblical times. (Like Jesus used at the wedding at Cana). One needs to beat least 42-46” tall. Another slightly shorter, and a third jug more rounded and short. They don’t need to match, just compliment each other as they will be grouped together. Would you have anything like this? If not, could you recommend any websites I could visit?
    Certainly enjoy your posts!
    Thanks, Marcia K.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Marcia, I think you should google this type pot until you find something. All of our pots are on the Detroit Garden Works website so you can look at them. best, Deborah

  21. Style by Haiku says

    Love your website. Could you tell me what those branches on shop photos were that have green balls attached to them? Is that a plant or something you “fashion” together.
    Thank you.

  22. Congrats on the cover photo of Midwest Living!!

  23. Hellebores are such a gift to those of us with long winters! I have nearly 40, including 3 Madame Lemmonier babies that were planted last fall. I’m glad to hear your positive review of that cultivar. Many of my hellebore flower buds turned to brown mush in Feb when temperatures spiked to nearly 60 degrees for several days, inspiring me to cut off the old hellebore leaves and pull away leaf litter, and then dropped to zero the next week. So sad. I should have been more lazy. It ‘s just hard to wait for spring. But spring in harsh climates is more glorious than in California (where we lived for 3 years), because you feel you really earned the fresh beauty by suffering for so many months through the cold and dark. So you savor it more.

    • Deborah Silver says

      Dear VW, I just pruned my hellebore leaves back a couple days ago. I will have more problems with rabbits than frost on the buds. best, Deborah

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