Six Reasons to Hellebore-Up

Sun, part sun or shade – many gardeners consider Hellebores as strictly shade plants

Helleborus ‘Black Jubilee’.

There are certain time-honoured traditions that we have all come to expect of autumn – the long-awaited start of the hockey season, turkey and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving, and the much anticipated article about my favourite perennial, Helleborus.

This is the time of the year when these often slow-growing beauties are finally ready for sale and we get to see which new introductions are available locally.

For collector’s, there is that same urgency that I often see at women’s shoe sales, except that gardeners display a much more restrained frenzy when drooling over the many possibilities.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, consider the following as nothing more than mere propaganda, or perhaps a few good reasons to find out what all this praise is about.

1. Six months of flowering – starting with the early blooming Christmas Rose, or Helleborus niger cultivars (‘Jacob’, ‘Josef Lemper’, ‘Jonas’), which open their pure white blooms from mid to late November, carrying through with many of the newer evergreen hybrids (Helleborus x nigercors and ballardiae) and ending with the February to early May multicolour blooms of Lenten Rose (Helleborus x hybridus), with a little planning, you can have a solid six months of winter flowers.

2. Every colour of the rainbow – whether you’re an Alba garden snob (I mean this in the nicest way possible) or looking for some near black flowered plants for a Gothic look, there’s a Hellebore for you somewhere. We have apple green (H. corsicus and foetidus), dark burgundy, yellow (‘Golden Lotus’), red, slate blue (‘Metallic Blue Lady’), pink, amber and pure unadulterated white. These blooms are often accented with spotting, picotees and darker veining, and the flower form itself ranges from singles, doubles, semi-doubles and anemone.

3. Sun, part sun or shade – while many gardeners consider Hellebores as strictly shade plants, here in coastal B.C. we have many more options. Some of them are quite sun tolerant including Helleborus x sternii and corsicus, all of the Lenten Roses (Helleborus x hybridus) perform best with morning or late afternoon sun, and Helleborus niger will tolerate deep shade, although it’s best located under a deciduous tree, so that a little winter sun can peek through.

4. The deer don’t eat them – as we keep pushing our homes further and further away from the city core, removing the forests as we go – the remaining deer are left with little choice but to eat the food we have left them, which happens to be our gardens. Since Hellebores are highly toxic plants (when ingested) and were once used to poison the water supply during the Greek siege of Kirrha in 585BC, the deer have the common sense to leave them alone.

5. They grow in containers – even if you have limited space you can still grow Hellebores in containers, and many of the early blooming Christmas Roses in the HGC Collection can even be brought indoors like a houseplant (when in flower) for short periods of time (7-10 days).

6. Many are beautiful foliage plants – Most of the newer Helleborus x nigercors, x ballardiae or ‘Rodney Davey Marbled Group’ are reliably evergreen and a choice few have foliage that rivals the flowers – ‘Anna’s Red’, ‘Penny’s Pink’ and ‘Moonlit Marble’ come to mind here. A hint of silver can be found on Helleborus x sternii ‘Silver Dollar’ and the black-flowered Lenten Roses are also worth considering, as the new growth often emerges a deep purple.

Mike Lascelle is a local nursery manager and gardening author (hebe_acer@hotmail.com).

Just Posted

Maple Ridge public hearing blasts housing plan near river

People spoke for three hours against 26 homes

Pitt council pay increases partly in reaction to federal tax changes

Total cost of implementing the recommendations is an increase of $90,110 for council remuneration.

Party bus safety rules now in place

Maple Ridge family can now step back

Letter: ‘Prison system does not work for the taxpayers’

‘Other countries have moved away from such an antiquated and ineffective system.’

BC Ferries to pilot selling beer and wine on select routes

Drinks from select B.C. breweries and VQA wineries to be sold on Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen route

Paddling and pancakes, cleaning Katzie Slough shore

The fourth biannual canoe tour of the Katzie Slough took place on Sunday

Should B.C. lower speed limits on side roads to 30 km/h?

Vancouver city councillor wants to decrease speed limits along neighbourhood side roads

Lawsuit eyed over union-only raise for B.C. community care workers

‘Low-wage redress’ leaves 17,000 employees out, employers say

Landlord of alleged Okanagan shooter recounts deadly day

Tony Friesen was working in one of the units of his Penticton building when he heard shots

B.C. RCMP arrest foreign national in connection to airport thefts

A woman, 60, is being held in police custody as Richmond RCMP investigate

Police pursue pesky porker on Vancouver Island

‘This was allegedly not the pig’s first escape’

Rare ‘Snow Tower’ tree blooming in Vancouver city park

A plant rarely grown in Canada is now flowering at the Bloedel Conservatory in Queen Elizabeth Park

Westjet tries again to dismiss proposed class-action lawsuit alleging discrimination

Former flight attendant claims airline broke contractual promise to create harassment-free workplace

VIDEO: Iron Assassin’s Demolition Derby sets new Abbotsford Centre record

Debut event sells over 1,000 tickets at the door on Saturday

Most Read