Winter is a beautiful time of year for many. Snow blankets the world and sits in fluffy clouds on evergreen branches. Red twig dogwood glows in groups of fiery red and willow radiates with branches of bright yellow. Where it doesn’t snow, evergreen broadleaves keep things looking lush, when many other broadleaved plants have gone dormant. Hardier annuals like pansy and alyssum keep looking beautiful throughout the winter in areas where it doesn’t get too cold. All of these sights are expected year after year in the winter time, but the genus of plants known as Helleborus or Lenten Roses can and do shake up the winter scene we’ve all come to expect.
Hellebores are long-lived and very tough perennials that bloom with big, beautiful flowers in the winter. Also called “Lenten Roses”, they are known for being the first plant to do much of anything in the very early spring or, in some areas, the middle of winter. Yes, often even before spring flowering bulbs. Hellebores are quick to send up thick stalks and bloom when the days start to get longer and the sun barely warms the soil. Blooms will last a long time too - often a couple of months. Cultivars offer blooms from white to almost black, and every color and many pretty patterns in between. Their foliage stays evergreen. They do well in shade and don’t get big. People who have added hellebores to their gardens quickly fall in love with them and are often the beginnings of garden plant collections!
Most garden zones of 7 and above can enjoy the full range of available hellebore cultivars. The best types for temperate gardens are the hybrid types, which come in most of the colors and forms that you see. Colder zones that are below zone 7 are a little more limited to the species ‘helleborus niger’ which are generally white-blooming, but they are still lovely. Hellebores pair lovely in the shade garden with other typical shade plants, like astilbe and hostas.
Hellebores originate from Asia and Europe and have been in cultivation for a long time. Lots of myths and stories originate from these plants, centering on their toxicity. It used to be associated with witchcraft and was sometimes used during ancient Greek times as a cure for insanity. The plant itself is not palatable, but when planted in the garden great care should be taken to make sure kids and pets don’t eat it.
Hellebores aren’t necessarily new. Gardeners who enjoy branching out from the normal selections often have groups of hellebores in their gardens- but they’re not very common in most landscapes. Thankfully, we are carrying the best performing and beautiful hellebore cultivars now priced affordably so they can be planted in a wider range of gardens. Check out our fantastic stock of hellebores ready for planting in your garden!