LOVES SHADE! DROUGHT TOLERANT! DEER RESISTANT!
BLOOMS FEBRUARY/MARCH! EVERGREEN! SELF-SOWING!
WHAT’S NOT TO LOVE ABOUT HELLEBORES?
Helleborus orientalis (Lenten Rose) is an evergreen perennial that delights in full to part shade. Grown from seed, it can take up to three years to flower. The varied shades of greenish-white to white to purple are well worth the wait when they appear among the earliest daffodils. Bell-shaped, 2” flowers hang face down from 8” stalks and are especially lovely planted on a hillside and viewed from below.
The nodding flowers remain for weeks. After dropping their blooms, their large, medium green, deeply lobed leaves remain crisp and cooling throughout our long, hot summers and attractive throughout the winter, when much is brown and dreary. The leaves can be cut back in late winter or left in place where they will be covered with the next year’s leaves. Self-sown seedlings can be transplanted as soon as the ground can be worked. They are tolerant of most soils, but as with almost everything, a well-drained, slightly acidic loam will please them best.
Hellebores are critter resistant – deer, possum, chipmunks, rabbits and squirrels have taken nary a nibble in the 15 years I’ve had them in my gardens. (Had both Hellebores and critters.) They have required no supplemental water in that time, through some of the deepest droughts North Georgia has experienced, remaining upright and appealing when everything else has drooped, at best, or died.
If there are any negatives to be mentioned they are lack of tolerance to traffic and lack of fragrance.
Recent breeding has given us many hybrids – double and peony-form flowers and an extended color range including yellows, blues and very nearly black. There are many other species – H. niger and H. foetidus, to name two – each with outstanding characteristics.
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