The arctic outflow that most of Canada has experienced this winter has now made its way to the PNW. It’s during times like this, that we all get excited for a sign of spring to appear. Vancouver and parts of Vancouver Island are usually enjoying the sights of daffodils, snowdrops, and a selection of early blooming perennials. The rest of us in the Great White North will have to wait a few months. To help you beat the wintertime blues and to brighten your day, let me introduce you to one of my favourite winter flowers….the hellebore.
There are 17 known species of Hellebores including the most common, H. niger (Christmas Rose), H. foetidus (stinking hellebores) and Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose). H. orientalis has been hybridized, so you may see them as cultivars Helleborus x hybridus. Although the common names suggest they are a rose, they are not. They are members of the Ranunculaceae family that includes buttercups, and native to Mediterranean Europe and the Balkan Mountain region.
Hellebores prefer well-drained, rich, moist organic alkaline soil, in part or full shade locations. Your best success is to plant them under a deciduous tree where the leaf mulch will offer beneficial nutrients and protect the plant during the hot summer months. If you are planning on growing these in your garden, be aware that the entire plant is toxic, so keep them away from young children and your pets. They are also deer and rabbit resistant. A number of varieties will offer attractive evergreen foliage during the rest of the year even when the flowers have faded. Varieties range from hardiness from zone 4 – 9, which means most Canadian gardeners can enjoy this perennial.
I don’t know anyone who does not gush when they see these beautiful clusters of blooms. The beautiful colours we enjoy do not come from the petals, but from the calyx of the flower, which far outlasts the necataries and anthers, and are thought to help with the development of the seeds.
Through hybridization, hellebores come in a range of white, green, pink, purple, red, black, speckle, picotee colours; in single or double forms. Depending on the variety, you can enjoy these blooms from as early as December right into May/June.
Here in Pemberton, it will be awhile before we see any signs of spring, so the potted hellebore on my coffee table will have to do. It’s warming my heart & soul while I ride out the last legs of winter.
There are many great resources out there that share growing & care tips for these beauties. I have listed a few of my favourite resources that might be helpful in your quest of that variety that has caught your eye.
- Hellebores: A Comprehensive Guide (hardcover book) By C. Colston Burrell and Judith Knott Tyler
- Garden Design https://www.gardendesign.com/flowers/hellebores.html
- Gardenia https://www.gardenia.net/plant-variety/Helleborus-Hellebores
- The Spruce https://www.thespruce.com/growing-hellebores-in-the-garden-1402846
- Deborah Silver https://www.deborahsilver.com/blog/awash-in-hellebores/
Hellebores in their glory
Hellebores go beyond the garden and have inspired many beautiful creations. Head over to From The Garden Shed Pinterest Page to find my favourite pins. You will find the most recent hellebore pins in the Wreath, Gardening, Plants, Container Garden and Floral boards. For those who do not have access to Pinterest, I have chosen a few of my favourite inspirational designs, made by some well-known and respected gardeners & florists. I hope that they inspire you and help to ease your wintertime blues! Enjoy!
Not just for woodland gardens….
Baylor Chapman of Lila B. in San Francisco, may be familiar to some of you who have her book The Plant Recipe Book. This is a great step-by-step resource to create living arrangements that can be enjoyed indoors during the cold winter months. Below is an arrangement that features aeonium cutting, hellebores, and rabbit’s foot fern.
Deborah Silver, of Deborah Silver & Co., is a landscape and garden designer, and has a fabulous garden blog called Dirt Simple, the observations of a landscape designer. She also opened Detroit Garden Works, a retail store devoted to unusual garden ornamentation and specialty plants. I draw so much inspiration from her work, and love her use of simple layers of plant material to create striking results. Below is a beautiful spring bowl of hellebores, violas, and pussy willows.
Look no further for beautiful garden inspiration, than from Danish gardener extraordinaire Claus Dalby. He is the Martha Stewart of Denmark and his Instagram page is filled with beautiful images of his own garden, floral arranging, and many of the 2000 pots on his property. The hellebore vine wreath shown here shares company with another cold season beauty, the pussy willow.
You know that you are in good hands of finding the best when your company is called The Flower Hunter. Lucy Hunter, an English Landscape Designer is also known for her stunning floral design work. If you are looking for inspiration of the “British countryside that celebrates the wild diversity of its spontaneous beauty”, then this is your girl. The floral creation below features late Hellebores, Galanthus, Fritillaria, and Spring flowering Cherry.