If most people were asked which is the first flower that heralds the spring they will most probably answer the snowdrop of course, but that is because they have not been introduced to the world of hellebores. Although we have many shrubs that flower through the winter I particularly see a certain inauguration of the years flowers with the hellebore, as it is the first perennial in my garden to flower, and bearing the crown of perennials it gives me the hope of being followed by thousands more. So this week I cut a few twigs and placed them in the vase on my dining table.
Flower of the week from YOUR garden to YOUR table: 30th Jan. – 5th Feb. 2017.
Botanical Name: Hellebore. Common Name: Christmas Rose , Lenten Rose.
The hellebore usually begins to flower in mid January and continues through the spring. The leaves are evergreen and the flowering season obviously begins with the Christmas rose and then continues with the Lenten Rose which are usually larger and more showy. It does look a bit like a wild rose with its protruding stamens but many flowers could be called a rose for that matter, I think the name comes from a different resemblance to the rose – the number of petals, although we are now so used to enjoying roses with dozens of petals; original roses and all flowers in the rosacea family (like apple trees), bear flowers with just 5 petals (and 5 stamens).
Older text books will show only a couple of varieties but recently the hellebore has gained popularity with plant enthusiasts and they have hybridised many varieties and introduced many fantastic new ones – double ones and speckled ones . The tallest hellebore is Helleborous argutifilious that reaches a height of 90 cm and bears green flowers but most are between 15 and 35 cm.. I used to have a black (deep purple) variety, but it died from neglect – that is part of the problem with hellebore – by the time the summer comes when we are busy feeding the garden plants – we hardly notice them and forget to feed them, they will still come up the next year but after a few years of neglect they give up, and deservedly so!
Buying and planting Guide;
Many varieties can now be bought in flower and can be immediately sunk into the garden, the frost and snow will do them no harm and they prefer to be planted in dappled shade. Most varieties prefer an alkaline soil so they will thank you for putting a bit of hydrated lime in the planting hole.
As you know I like to write an honest column – they fail miserably as a cut flower- after 24 hours they will look like the ones in the photo, but if well fed they can throw up numerous buds , so keep changing the flowers in the vase. However, if a great artist would have drawn the picture with the title ‘The sad flower’ I think it would fetch a high price, don’t you?
Good gardening ,
Boris Legarni .