The Lenten Rose
Hellebores. Of all the flowers and plants that we grow there is nothing quite like the Hellebores, especially the orientalis hybrids as they are now known. Their ability to flower so well in the darkest months of the winter fills a gap in the gardening calendar and places them on a par with the Snowdrops that are so popular nowadays.
Hellebores are not brash or exotic yet they have a subtlety that is certainly unrivaled. Each and every year, they thrust up their flowers. These look so beautiful in the low light levels of the darkest months. They are not affected by frost, rain or wind. They just sit it out until they get a bit of sunlight and the flowers unfurl to reveal an inner beauty. The outside of the petals are often very different from the inner. Most of the flowers are pendulous to protect the inside, making them mysterious as well as beautiful. There is nothing quite like lifting up the blooms to reveal the often exquisite markings on the inside on a cold day.
Of course they can survive in almost all sites. They do hate water logged soils though. Growing in sun or shade they are best known as woodland plants. Actually preferring to grow in good light levels. Very few diseases are a problem. The only down side to hellebores are their tatty leaves as winter approaches. These are best removed leaving a 5cm (2”) stalk just after Christmas. Then new shoots will then emerge ready to start the cycle over again.
In winter add a mulch of well rotted farmyard manure or old mushroom compost. This is best applied when the leaves are removed and helps to feed them in their hour of need. Don’t forget that they are actively growing in the opposite way to normal Summer flowering plants and needing something Jan, Feb or March.
Nowadays the colour range is absolutely superb. They are available in colours ranging from pure white to darkest black, many spotted, splashed or veined. Even doubles and anemone centres are now freely available.