Handsome hellebores

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Back in December there was a post here about the Christmas Rose, Helleborus Niger. I once worked in a horticultural nursery where they experimented with breeding and hybridizing hellebores every year, and I fell in love with the plants’ exquisite colours and markings.

They were hybrids of helleborus orientalis (the Lenten Rose), and other closely related species and sub species. I bought a couple each year to plant in the little woodland area of my garden, and every February I almost break out into a little happy dance when no one is looking.

Red Hellebore

Hellebores are native to much of Europe, from Britain right the way across Europe as far as the Balkans and Turkey, stretching towards Syria. They are most concentrated in the wild in the Balkans, I would love to see them carpeting a mountainside, they must look spectacular. Hellebores can be catagorised into two main groups, most simply described as those that grow with leaves on the stems, and those that do not.

Both the popular Christmas Rose and the Lenten Rose, (helleborus orientalis), belong to the latter group. They thrive in a woodland situation, obligingly growing in part or almost complete shade. Mine happily romp away under trees.

Pink Hellebore

Crimson Hellebore

Early in February, when everything except the snowdrops seem to be sleeping in the garden, the brave hellebore flower buds start to emerge and quickly there is a display that is quite at odds with the harshness of the weather and feels vaguely miraculous considering the frozen soil and leaden skies. As they come into flower, I tend to cut off most of the older leaves so the flower stems can be enjoyed in all their glory.

Beautiful hellebore

Pink Spotted Hellebore

The only drawback is that hellebores do not do well as a cut flower, however carefully they are picked and conditioned. They will last a day or two at most, so working fine for an immediate event arrangement but not to enjoy and admire for a week at a time.

I think the prettiest way to enjoy them is to snip off the flowers heads and float them in bowls of shallow water. There is also a lovely acid green hellebore with the unfortunate name of helleborus foetidus, (the stinking hellebore), which does in fact not stink at all and I think looks very lovely as foliage filler in an arrangement, but really will only last a couple of days.

Hellebore arrangement in jug

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Hellebores also self seed like mad, so either pick off the flowers before they go to seed if you don’t want more plants or thin out the seedlings if you do, replanting the spares or potting some up to give away.

They are really tough but exquisite plants, and you can’t really ask for more than that.

Thanks for reading!

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