The Hellebore Festival

helleborus MerlinHellebores are the mainstay of the early spring garden in my zone. The plants themselves feature leathery foliage that may persist throughout a mild winter.  The flowers come first, on leafless stalks that emerge from the ground in late March and early April.  Once the flowers have matured, the new leaves sprout.  They range in height from 15″ to 20″, and appreciate a semi shady location in humus rich and friable soil.

helleborus corsicus IcebreakerI grow one group of hellebores in full sun, but I make sure they have sufficient water. Some clumps are going on 15 years old, and show no signs of any loss of vigor. The summer foliage is lush and glossy.  Deer don’t touch them. What appears to be the petals are actually modified leaves.  The small tubular lime green structures surrounding the center in the above picture are the actual flowers.  Those modified leaves will persist on the plant long into the summer.  This give the impression of a very long bloom time.

hellebore festivalMost hellebores are very willing to set seed. I see many seedlings surrounding my large plants this spring.  Given 3 or 4 years, they will grow on to blooming size. Some of the newer varieties of hellebores feature up or side facing flowers.  Older cultivars of helleborus orientalis feature nodding flowers.  Planting them at the top of a slope or wall will provide a better look at the flowers.  If you choose to cut them, do sear the bottom of the stem in boiling water before you condition them. They will last an amazingly long time floating in a bowl of water.

helleborus lividus Pink MarbleNew to us this year is helleborus lividus “Pink Marble”. The hellebore is shorter and more compact than most.  It grows about a foot tall, and 18″ wide.  The leaves have delicate white veins.  As this hellebore is a little more tender than most, I would plant it with some protection from winds.  A layer of leaves after the ground freezes will help protect it.

helleborus Frilly KittyFrilly Kitty features pink fully double flowers. Hellebore breeding has produced flowers in an astonishing range of colors and shapes.  It remains to be seem which will survive the test of time. Hellebores grown from seed will all be different. A hellebore selected for its flower color or vigor will be reproduced via tissue culture, which insures that all of the characteristics of the parent is repeated in the progeny.

helleborus ConnieHelleborus Spring Promise “Conny” is a white flowered hellebore with maroon spots.  The flowers are stunning.  I am sure this accounts for the fact that we are already sold out of this cultivar. It seems to be a fairly strong grower in my garden.  One clump that is year years old has a number of blooms this year.

helleborus SallySally is another member of the Spring Promise series. Spring Promise is a helleborus orientalis type, and bloom from late February into April.  They come in a wide range of forms and colors.  Sally has lovely greenish yellow flowers atop a very strong growing plant.

Helleborus IcebreakerHelleborus Icebreaker is a personal favorite.  The white flowers mature to a most beautiful shade of green.  Interested further in the green flowered types?  I wrote about them here:  green flowered hellebores  If you are not able to get by the shop today, don’t worry.  We have a great supply of many different cultivars. The best part of this year’s festival?  Mild March weather is making it possible to plant them in the ground  straight away.

 

Comments

  1. I can’t thank you enough for your last two posts. We moved last June and left behind a hillside that I had planted with hellebores, lungwort, coral bells and ferns. I looked back through my gardening journal and couldn’t find what variety I planted but after reading your previous post, am almost certain that they were the Royal Heritage.

    I brought one small hellebore seedling and one lungwort seedling with to Michigan but they are another year away from blooming, at best. Now I know what variety to surround them with. Happy planting!

  2. Angie Marie says:

    Just planted the Connies Sunday and I love them!

    • Deborah Silver says:

      Dear Angie Marie, I have Conny in bloom in my yard now too-it is so beautiful. best, Deborah

  3. Wish I could “share the love” with all your readers and send them the seedlings/plants. Mine multiply like crazy, every year dig up tons and throw them out or they would take over. They look great with arums, too, however they are also somewhat invasive, at least here in the South.

  4. My Hellebores are in bloom now and they are under a bit of snow. The flowers are just above the snow. Thank goodness the snow is melting fast. My Hellebores seem to tolerate night time freeze. They are impressive plants. I was glad to hear that they multiply over time. I bought mine at Whole Foods grocery store last year. Occasionally WF’s has some nice plants!
    Susan

  5. I love these flowers too. Thanks for sharing the photos.

  6. They are my favorite !

  7. I finally am getting my very first hellebore bloom right now after waiting a good 3 or 4 yrs. The plant was gifted to me, a very small seedling, from a friend’s garden. It has been so slow growing very little each year even though what there is of it is very healthy. Mine has beautiful upright, deep burgundy blooms with green centers.

  8. I have not tried any Hellebores, but am loving your Icebreaker. Wish I lived closer to come and get some! I’ll have to see what I can find local. Love your blog Deborah!

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