Hellebore Heaven

IMG_1688I’ve waxed eloquent on the topic of hellebores in the past but I think it bears revisiting. It appears that while I’ve assumed everybody knows and loves these rugged plants, many are not at all familiar with them. Clearly, I haven’t done a decent job of spreading this good plants virtues.

My own love affair with Hellebores started over fifteen years ago. I saw a plant in bloom one very cold day in March when winter had barely relaxed her chilly grip. I simply had to get to know this brave soul. So, I rushed to my local nursery and bought two. They settled into the garden quite easily and grew well. The following year, they repaid my kindness with a plethora of flowers that bloomed well into summer. I had barely paid attention to them all year and here I was being so handsomely rewarded. This was my kind of plant partner – independent, reliable, good-looking, low maintenance, loyal and hard working. Wish I knew more humans with all those traits.

I now have somewhere between fifteen to twenty hellebores in various semi-shady parts of the garden. They do better with a bit more sun than shade. I have them in the perennial beds, under shrubs and, bordering the meadow. At each site, the flowers add valuable color and beauty at a time when these elements are scarce. They are notorious self seeders but because I mulch heavily each spring, the seedlings get smothered and do not thrive. When required, I pot up some seedlings to give away and then spread the mulch.

Hellebore leaves are best not cut back in the fall. They are left on to provide protection to the emerging buds that nestle shyly beneath. Once the snow has melted and spring is just about to start, I remove the old leaves making way for the new growth.

Hellebores are not so palatable to deer and other pests as many varieties are poisonous. The leathery, serrated leaves keep away the curious. The flowers, oh, the flowers! They are show stoppers. Coming in a range of creams, buff, pale green and all shades of rose, a mature plant is spectacular in bloom. They do not scream but gently draw your eyes to their beauty. And then you cannot look away.

The plants are drought tolerant but do best in moist, well-drained soil. Most hellebores can be planted in zones 5a to 8. A few even tolerate zone 9. Reaching only heights of a foot and a half, these relatives of the ranunculus, are perfectly suited to that place between the low growing plants and the taller ones. The plant peaks just when you are weary of the bleak winter scene and impatient for the large bulbs to start their performance. They nicely bridge winter gaps with their evergreen leaves. In my opinion, no garden should be without hellebores. Ever.

So, have I convinced you?

My garden is open this Saturday May 9 from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. See here for details. Please do visit!

Also, thanks so much to those who came to my art show reception last Saturday. You made my day! For those who missed it, the exhibit is on all of May – at Teatown Lake Reservation in Ossining, New York. Hope you’ll get to it. Let me know what you think!

Enjoy these images of hellebores:

This one is actually named 'Dark And Handsome'!

This one is actually named ‘Dark And Handsome’!




My own rendition

My own rendition

(c) 2015 Shobha Vanchiswar

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1 thought on “Hellebore Heaven

  1. That Dark and Handsome is outrageous! I love hellebores, but mine don’t look great this spring. Sad leaves, which, per your advice, I will cut back. But only one is flowering. What have I done? Or not done?
    A month ago in the city I saw a number of brownstones near the MMA that had window boxes that were absolutely bursting with hellebores! Lime green. Not a cheap way to fill a window box but just stunning.

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