Hellebores

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cohan
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Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-02-03

Boy, were these plants ever a terrible idea as houseplants!!!! They reek! When I brought them from work, the pots had the plastic wrappers common in florist plants, and they had water in them, so before bringing them home, I dumped out the water and washed it with soap- it smelled very bad (like vomit) but sometimes water with organic material that sits around would smell like that, so I didn't think much of it...

Well, the next day, the whole house smelled like vomit, even though the plants were in a back room, with the door closed much of the time.. I thought it was just the pot still holding the bad smell from the water, so I threw out the plastic wrapper, sprayed the outside of the pot with a household cleaner, rinsed, dipped in a bucket of water with bleach (only the plastic pot, not wetting the soil) rinsed, and dipped in vinegar water, rinsed..l the plant/pot seemed to be mostly odour free, so I thought it was good-- but apparently not! after several days- most of which spent with the front door open, fans on, candles burning, the door to that room closed, and still the house smells, especially once the front door is closed!
Next effort will be to enclose the two plants in a large clear plastic bag.. still far too cold to put the plants outdoors when they are not used to it, but if the bags don't work they will be outside-- much longer, and I will get put out....lol

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F; http://picasaweb.google.ca/cactuscactus  http://urbanehillbillycanada.blogspot.com/

Lori S.
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-10-27

Well, darn... who would have thought?  It's great to get some desirable plants for free so I hope the plastic bag contains the smell. 

Lori
Calgary, Alberta, Canada - Zone 3
-30 C to +30 C (rarely!); elevation ~1130m; annual precipitation ~40 cm

cohan
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Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-02-03

Lori wrote:

Well, darn... who would have thought?  It's great to get some desirable plants for free so I hope the plastic bag contains the smell. 

I hope so too! Were I living alone I might put up with the smell (locked away in another room) but for the non-plant lovers in the house, there really is no pay-off...lol
I tried looking up the smell a bit, and came up with Helleborus foetidus, so the genus does have some reputation, though I think these are probably niger- which I eventually found some references to the scent of in herbals- 'offensive odour when leaves crushed' Perhaps it was the clipping they did of the dead leaves which released the fragrance....though the drained water really smelled, so must come from the roots too!

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F; http://picasaweb.google.ca/cactuscactus  http://urbanehillbillycanada.blogspot.com/

Hoy
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Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-15

Cohan, if it smells like vomit it probably is butyric acid made by bacteria in stagnant oxygen free water (anaerobic respiration). The fat roots of the hellebore is starch rich and nice food for hungry bacteria!
It is not poisonous but an important constituent of butter ;)

Trond
Rogaland, Norway - with cool, often rainy summers  (29C max) and mild, often rainy winters (180 cm/year)!

Mark McD
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-12-14

I just went out and plucked an old Helleborus niger leaf and crushed it, no detectable bad odor.  Then I sniffed at the flowers, and they have a sweet perfume, hadn't noticed that before (to sniff the flowers and not crush other plants around the Helleborus, requires getting into a push-up or planche position; gardening and getting fit at the same time ;D).

Mark McDonough
Massachusetts, USA, near the New Hampshire border USDA Zone 5
antennaria at aol.com
 

cohan
cohan's picture
Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-02-03

That was what I thought first, Trond- I've smelled rotten herbal tea that smelled exactly the same! But I discarded the water, washed the pots as mentioned above.. I've never encountered a wet potted plant smelling like this- and especially lingering so strongly after the water is removed- its been days! It doesn't seem the roots should be rotting if the new leaves are coming? Unless the rot is more recent, and has not yet killed the growth higher in the pot?? If this is the case, I wonder if I should wash off all the old soil and repot......

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F; http://picasaweb.google.ca/cactuscactus  http://urbanehillbillycanada.blogspot.com/

RickR
Title: Moderator
Joined: 2009-09-21

You are certainly more forgiving than me, Cohan.  I would have put them in the snowbank for sure. ;D  Although, I did make hypertufa troughs one warm late fall day, and had to cure them inside the house.  But they never smelled that bad.

We just got some in at the Home Depot here - Pink Princess (or Princess Pink), I think they were.  This batch is much nicer than the previous ones, but still...

Also got Erica's in for sale as flowering plants.

Rick Rodich    zone 4a.    Annual precipitation ~24 inches
near Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

cohan
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Title: Guest
Joined: 2011-02-03

Thing is, Rick, this is the only time -actually now that I think about- the only time I've ever seen Hellebores in person, even, much less free..lol.. and paying $20 for one plant is not going to happen, so I'd really like to keep these alive if I can.. (watch now, some local garden centre will be full of them this summer, and cheap....lol)
Trond's comments make me wonder if it could be the soil after all, though I have seen a lot of waterlogged plants and never run across anything that smelled like this.. maybe tomorrow I will try removing all the soil, or a really thorough leaching, though I hate to water them more....

west central alberta, canada; just under 1000m; record temps:min -45C/-49F;max 34C/93F; http://picasaweb.google.ca/cactuscactus  http://urbanehillbillycanada.blogspot.com/

Tim Ingram
Title: Member
Joined: 2011-04-27

A few hellebores flowering now. 'Queen of the Night' is a very dark flowered strain developed by Elizabeth Strangman, and ex. 'Cosmos', quite a legendary plant bred by Eric Smith and Jim Archibald. Jim kept many of the true original selections and offered seed of them in his lists. The aim was to get very uniform spotting with a tidy clean margin as here. H. odorus is one of the best species for the garden, with glowing yellow-green flowers, nicely scented.

For many years we grew and sold large numbers of hellebores but never approached the quality of some of these early selections, many of which have been the basis of more recent hybridisation work. Time we started a bit of gentle cross pollination...

Dr. Timothy John Ingram
Faversham, Kent, UK
I garden in a relatively hot and dry region (for the UK!), with an annual rainfall of around 25", winter lows of -10°C and summer highs of 30°C.
 

AmyO
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Title: Member
Joined: 2009-12-06

cohan wrote:

Trond's comments make me wonder if it could be the soil after all, though I have seen a lot of waterlogged plants and never run across anything that smelled like this.. maybe tomorrow I will try removing all the soil, or a really thorough leaching, though I hate to water them more....

Cohan you are on the right track here.....what happened is the pot cover stayed on too long causing lots of rot to occur. I'll bet when you unpot it the roots will be very mushy and stinky. Work off as much of the old soil as you can, rinse off the roots so you can have a good look at what's going on with them. Trim off the rotten ones and then repot into fresh sterile potting mix. And hope for the best... :-\
At the nursery where I used to work we always removed the pot covers as they were sure to collect water and cause lots of damage. some places aren't attentive or even knowledgable to the plants needs.  :'(

Amy Olmsted
Hubbardton, VT, Zone 4

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