Hurrah for Hellebores!

I’m normally
doing my hellebore dance in late February or March, when the jewel-tone buds of
these precious perennials emerge from the wintery ground.  This year in the Northeast the spring weather
has just arrived, so my happy dance is just beginning!  In early April, I began to see these wonderful
gems come to life in my garden. 

I remember
first learning about hellebores from fellow Hardy Plant Society member and
shade plant lover, Carolyn Walker.  After
planting hellebores the previous fall, I mentioned to Carolyn that I thought
the flowers were pretty and that the deer resistance was fabulous, but I wasn’t
crazy about the ratty looking leaves at the end of winter.  That’s when I learned that you were supposed
to cut off the old leaves, providing room for the buds and eventual flowers to
steal the show, and for shiny new leaves to emerge.  Oops. 
Lesson learned!

Hellebore blooms emerge after the tattered foliage has been cut away
becoming educated on how to properly care for hellebores, I am now their
greatest fan.  Some people find the
nodding flowers of most Helleborus orientalis to be disappointing, because
their blooms face down. But like David Culp, hellebore hybridizer
extraordinaire, I enjoy holding the buds between my fingers, getting down on
the ground and admiring them up close. I particularly like the self-seeding
varieties as I have a large shade garden, which is always in need of filler
plants, and I love the menagerie of color. 
If you aren’t a fan of self-seeders, you can still be a hellebore
lover.  Try the gold collection, which is
made up of typically sterile plants. 
Hellebores with downward facing blooms; still beautiful in my opinion
Showing off the blooms
Gold Collection – ‘Pink Frost’
favorite of mine is the Helleborus foetidis, which gets a bad rap as “stinking
hellebore,” because the leaves can emit an unpleasant odor when crushed.  I say don’t crush them, just plant them, admire
them and let them reproduce at will!  The
muted yellow-green flowers and deeply-cut foliage add a wonderful texture to
the woodland garden.  
Helleborus foetidis
hope I have inspired you to put some hellebores in your shade or part shade
garden. Year after year, they will provide wonderful color and interest to the
garden.  As winter is ending and we are
desperate to see signs of life in the landscape, hellebores will appear.  In addition, they are evergreen, deer
resistant, long-lasting and self-sowing (if you want).  What more could you ask for?  So get out there and do the hellebore happy


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