What is not to love about a hellebore? Just one thing. They are so slow to get going and get gorgeous-more on this part later. Everything about their habit and flowers is stellar. The thick leatherly leaves are beautiful all season long. The flowers are astonishingly beautiful. I rather think they are the the Ferrari of perennial plants. They deliver beauty in a visually very powerful way. They have a capacity for high rpms that leave other perennials in their dust-even though they are quite small when mature. One could easily imagine fields of them. Another bonus? The sepals hold for for a very long time after the flowering has finished-as pictured above. This gives the impression of a very long period of bloom. The last of the best? They are quite willing to set seed.
Were I but one or two zones warmer, I would grow them all. Hellebore species are divided by those that are caulescent (meaning they have leaves on their flowering stems) and acaulescent. Acaulescent hellebores-such as Helleborus Niger, and Helleborus Orientalis, send up flowers stalks before they get around to the business of throwing leaves. I tried for years to cultivate the caulescent hellelorus argutifolius-unsuccessfully. The leafy stalks armed with flowers were invariably done in by my winter. I yanked the entire lot of them, after 7 years. Their leaves would be so ravaged by the winter that I could barely enjoy the flowers. How upset I was that they did not grow for me was ridiculous-I wanted them that bad. Helleborus foetidus and Helleborus lividus-not in the stars.
My current collection-all acaulescent varieties. I have grown up about which hellebores make sense for me. No matter how badly you want them, they have to like you. Of course I think any plant that I have a great love for would return that sentiment, and grow for me. Not so. So not so.
I have some Heritage hybrids-from the heritage series-bred from helleborus orientalis. Some are virtually black-others are white, with spots. I have pink, mauve, green-and every combination thereof. I have white and green baby orientalis hellebore hybrids from Knot Hill farms. The baby part is discouraging; they do take years to make good sized clumps.
I do so hope that by time I am 80, I will have strongly representing stands of hellebores. They will do more for my heart than any medicine. If I were you, I would plant 10 of them today.
The hybrid hellebore Ivory Prince is an exception to the pokey rule. It is a strong and fast grower. This particular cultivar is an upstart you might want to consider for your garden. The color-hellebore moody. Green, cream, and a hint of brownish pink. The habit-garden worthy. One of its best attributes-the flowers look up at you. This part I really appreciate.
I have flowers not yet in bloom-this should give you an idea of late the spring is. I like that one of my favorite plants is also one of the first to appear. They fly that flag that makes me want to get going in the garden.
Very lovely, aren’t they?