Apart from the snowdrops that increase each year all over the garden, our circular bed of Lenten roses – Helleborus x hybridus is the big event for us in February.
What I love about hellebores is that we are never quite sure what we’re going to get as they cross-fertilize without any help from me.
The Helleborus niger is lovely if only because it blooms earlier than the Lenton rose though I’ve never had one out at Christmas and it’s more tricky to maintain. The RHS says this plant is also known as Bear’s foot which I’ve not heard of. Despite their name, these plants are part of the buttercup rather than the rose family.
Hellebores are supposed to like humus- rich soil and we are on sand but they grow beneath the Amelanchier lamarckii and benefit from its rotting leaves. The soil never really dries out in that area.
This one, pictured, is Helleborus x ericsmithii ‘Winter Moonbeam’ and I bought it from Place for Plants manager Matt Tanton Brown when he delivered an amazing talk on Gardening for Wildlife to our local Garden Club. It starts off white, then ages to pink which deepens to red in early spring.
Worth noting for those who have never grown hellebores is the fact that the showy bits are sepals rather than petals and don’t fall as petals do but stay on the plant, sometimes for months.
Helleborus argutifolius is also in my round spring bed and has self-seeded into the gravel below. I used to mistake it for a native but it was introduced to Britain in 1710 from Corsica. The other name – Helleborus corsicus – says it all really. The native ones are Helleborus foetidus (stinking hellebore) and Helleborus viridis (Green hellebore)and I’d be interested to hear of others.