Around Christmas time I came across an amazingly beautiful plant named Hellebore, it is a perennial and for true gardeners it signals the end of winter. It intrigued me. So I decided to find out more so I could share it with you.
They are a native of Europe and have always been a favorite for English gardeners because of the English climate. They are part of the ranunculus family which includes the buttercup. The two most common hellebores are hellebores niger or Christmas rose and hellebores orientals or lenton rose. The Christmas rose tends to be white and lenton rose is reddish pink. They both bloom in March/April in Ontario often before the spring bulbs, as soon as the sun starts to shine because they are trying to peak through the snow.
They have grown wild in meadows for centuries, been used for medical purposes and in homeopathy. About twenty years ago, intense breeding was started on the hellebores from a single bloom to produce a double bloom. So this year they will be available in garden centers for the first time as doubles and in different colours.
Hellebores love dappled shaded areas but can tolerate part sun especially morning sun before it gets too strong. They are happy in zone 4 through to zone 10. They like well drained soil and are surprisingly drought tolerant if they are already established.
If you are lucky enough to have one in your house this winter, when bringing it outside remove the previous seasons leaves and dig a deep bed so it will allow the extensive root system to expand for decades of healthy growth. Feed it with five centimeters of aged manure, then in the autumn mulch the soil with shredded leaves and wait until next spring to see them peaking up through the snow. There foliage is evergreen and low around 12 inches in height so it is nice throughout the summer months.
The stores start to sell them around Christmas and Valentine’s Day as they make lovely gifts especially since they can be put in your garden once it becomes warmer. To have them in your house they need to be in a cool and bright location. They don’t like to dry out, and need watering probably every 3 to 4 days. If you find them droopy once you have watered them they will pop back up. Once planted outside, they will not bloom again until the following spring.
If you have a cottage and are looking for a plant that the deer won’t eat, then this is the one for you.