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Kip Anderson
Gardener Kip Anderson

January: Love at First Sight

An indoor plant captures Kip's heart
by Kip Anderson

First of all, there are a couple of things you should know about me:
1. I am always suspicious when I read glowing descriptions of newly introduced plants, especially when the press releases are issued by the company that hopes to sell them.
2. I'm not a huge fan of indoor plants; I spend most of my waking hours tending a large vegetable garden and the surrounding landscape, and it's a comfort to have a sanctuary where I can leave all that kind of activity behind me, if only for a span of several hours.

Now that I've made my confession, I have to add that these attitudes of mine are faced with a serious challenge. A few weeks ago, in December, a parcel was delivered to my house from Yoder Brothers, Inc. In the box was a plant they call the Christmas Rose (botanical name: Helleborus niger 'HGC Josef Lemper'). It was very compact, the leathery foliage almost hidden by numerous white flowers and emerging buds. I was smitten — it was love at first sight.

Several weeks have passed, and already it is clear that this is no temporary infatuation. The plant continues to produce new flowers, up to three inches across, with yellow centers. Not one of the original blooms has faded, however — they have turned a pleasant pale green!

Now, before you make any attempt to get a Christmas Rose of your own, I must tell you that the plant I have is a pre-introductory sample for me to trial. They won't be available to the retail market until Christmas of 2007. You will just have to wait.

Another thing that impressed me was the ingenious design of the shipping container. The potted plant was suspended inside a cardboard box and not a single leaf or flower was damaged in any way. This is rarely the case with plant material shipped to my doorstep.

When my Christmas Rose stops flowering (if it ever does) I can plant it in a shady corner of the garden, provided I acclimate it slowly from warm indoor conditions to outdoor cold, because it is a true perennial hardy down to USDA zone 4. I look forward to seeing how it performs next year, outside, out in my world.

Kip Anderson has been the Victory Garden's head gardener for over 20 years.

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Published August 31, 2007