A few years ago my then-teenage son con­vinced me to watch the movie Snakes on a Plane. It’s a movie about—you guessed it—snakes on a plane. Despite the fact that it was an incred­i­bly stu­pid film, it gave me night­mares. But movie snakes don’t hold a can­dle to real, live snakes right at home.

This week­end I asked my hus­band to dis­pose of two ratty-looking top­i­ary trees that were in large wooden con­tain­ers on either side of the garage door. I watched from the kitchen win­dow as he dragged them back to the com­post pile. They were over­grown and pot-bound, so I wasn’t sur­prised when he tugged and pulled to try and extri­cate them from the con­tain­ers. This went on for some time. I con­tin­ued to watch as he stood with his hands on his hips think­ing about the sit­u­a­tion. Appar­ently reach­ing  a con­clu­sion, I saw him start in on the con­tain­ers with a mattock.

And then I watched as he hot-footed it back to the house.

Those pots are filled with copperheads!”

Now, I didn’t go out to wit­ness it first-hand. It’s not because I’m a big old scaredey cat. Oh, no. Rather it’s because I have com­plete trust in my husband’s pow­ers of obser­va­tion and report­ing of the local wildlife. I mean, if he says cop­per­heads are out there swarm­ing by the dozens, I don’t really need to go out and ver­ify it with my own eyes, right? A mar­riage must be based on trust.

I hope it didn’t vio­late any Mary­land state wildlife laws, because I’m going to tell you right here that Harry screwed up his manly courage, went back out and com­mit­ted mass snake-icide. He was run­ning around with a shovel smack­ing at the ground, hop­ping around and look­ing very threat­en­ing. I was afraid of him. I think he got most of the lit­tle bug­gers. I got nightmares.

Okay, so that I don’t leave you with that hor­ri­ble image I’ll share some gar­den pho­tos to calm you down. Let’s talk a lit­tle bit about helle­bores, shall we?

One of the rea­sons I adore helle­bores as much as I do is that they give me hope in the bleak­est months of win­ter. Regard­less of what I do, these babies show their lit­tle heads some­time in Jan­u­ary and grad­u­ally emerge from under what­ever nature has thrown their way. I have seen them emerg­ing from under a foot of snow, in the freez­ing rain and even in those dry win­ter spells.

I help them along by trim­ming off the dam­aged green­ery from the pre­vi­ous year, allow­ing the plant’s strength to be con­cen­trated in flow­er­ing. They reward me by bloom­ing and bloom­ing. The flow­ers hang on through spring and even into sum­mer. These are plants that really pull their weight in the garden.

Bot­tom left: Helle­borus orientalis

Now that they are well-established I am faced each year with relo­cat­ing or re-homing hun­dreds of lit­tle helle­bore ori­en­talis seedlings. Frankly, it’s not a ter­ri­ble task and I always find tak­ers. I’m look­ing for­ward to the time when I have the same issue with the ‘Kingston Car­di­nal’ helle­bores. Massed together, they make a very nice state­ment while also crowd­ing out weeds and look­ing good almost the whole year long.

Helle­borus x hybridus ‘Kingston Cardinal’

Have you for­got­ten all about the snakes yet? Good. What­ever you do, don’t think about snakes. Espe­cially don’t think about poi­so­nous snakes in the gar­den. Dozens and dozens of swarm­ing poi­so­nous snakes in the garden.

(As always, click on pho­tos to embiggen.)


Be Socia­ble, Share!

14 Responses to “A Little EEEEK! in the Garden”

  1. Leslie Says:

    That sounds ter­ri­fy­ing! You know Indi­ana Jones would have been run­ning away. Harry is very brave!

  2. Gail Says:

    Harry is brave and lucky those snakes stayed hid­den dur­ing all that mov­ing and dig­ging! Love the gar­den views.

  3. Mary Ann Says:

    EEEEEEEEEEEK is right. I am glad Harry hacked em up. Yes, I am.

    And now that you have calmed me, tell me what the pretty bur­gundy shrub is to the left of the door? Gorg.


  4. Robin Ripley Says:

    Hi Mary Ann,
    Those are Acer Palma­tum ‘Skeeter Broom’on either side of the front door. The branches are a lit­tle long and it’s on my list to tidy them up near the bot­tom so you can see the trunk. They are gor­geous 9 months out of the year.

  5. Layanee Says:

    Oh, I want pic­tures of the snake dance. Where was your cam­era? What a hero in Harry. Love the helle­bores for the same rea­sons you do which you so elo­quently expressed.

  6. Patsy Bell Hobson Says:

    I’ve never seen these Helle­borus x hybridus ‘Kingston Car­di­nal’ before. They are fabulous.

  7. Mr. McGregor's Daughter Says:

    I’m reminded of the episode of The Simp­sons where the town was cel­e­brat­ing “Whack­ing Day.” I really do have to sym­pa­thize with snakes. I would have liked to have seen them.

  8. Keith, aka Bricky Says:

    Helle­bores we have, snakes we don’t, and I’m happy to keep it that way. I do like that ‘Kin­ston Cardinal’!

  9. Cindy, MCOK Says:

    Love that plant­ing by the front door! Hate snakes.

  10. DJ from Meander Mountain Says:

    Robin, your story of snakes and helle­bores reminds me of the day my son and I were out clip­ping the dead leaves off helle­bores above a four-foot tall stone wall. He quickly pulled his hand out when he dis­cov­ered a harm­less (but scary) black snake hang­ing out in the crispy foliage. I almost fell off the wall and the snake prob­a­bly suf­fered per­ma­nent psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma! Be care­ful out there!

  11. Kathy from Cold Climate Gardening Says:

    I’m with Laya­nee: not one picture??

  12. Robin Ripley Says:

    Dear Laya­nee and Kathy,

    No. No pho­tos. Not one.

    See para­graph five in which I ref­er­ence that my mar­riage is based on trust, there­fore I did not need to risk my life by con­fronting thou­sands of poi­so­nous snakes writhing through our yard look­ing for yummy Robins.


  13. Benita Says:

    Oh, Robin, thank you! You made me laugh and laugh, because I’m so afraid of poi­so­nous snakes I moved to Puget Sound from Reno to get away from the pos­si­bil­ity of con­fronting a west­ern dia­mond­back rat­tler. Well, that wasn’t the only rea­son but I do feel safer in Tiny Tim’s Gar­den. You are a won­der­ful writer and I enjoyed it very much!


  14. Amy Says:

    Hilar­i­ous and hideous all at the same time. I must have been in some seri­ous denial for the last 17 years because I have truly con­vinced myself there are no poi­so­nous snakes in Maryland.

    I offi­cially have the hebe­jebes. Thanks for sharing :)


Garden and food writer Robin Ripley is co-author of Grocery Gardening. Her new book, Wisdom for Home Preservers, is now available from Taunton Press. Bumblebee is about her life in rural Maryland, her garden, cooking, dogs and pet chickens. She also blogs about food and chickens at Eggs & Chickens. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook. Thank you for visiting.


Email Updates

To get the latest Bumblebee posts in your email box, just enter your email address.

  • Tags

  • Recent Posts

  • Google