Flowers to brighten these chill darker days are an invaluable commodity in the garden, and few are more welcome nor so colourful as the Hellebore. There is the myriad variety of colours and flower forms of the Lenten Rose (Hellebore hybridus), bold architectural foliage and flower of the Corsican Hellebore (H. argutifolius), and Christmas rose hybrids of Hellebore niger – premium plants from the Hellebore Gold Collection which include their Snow Roses whose showy flowers mature from whites and creams to dusky pinks or jade-green – and so many more from of the 20 or so species and their hybrids, many that are happy in sun or usefully tolerant of woodland shade. These delightful, tough and reliable evergreen perennials should find a place in every garden, looking good right through until Spring.
Here’s a snapshot of some of the varieties out and about now seen at RHS Wisley yesterday – and in the months ahead their numbers will surely increase as these stalwart plants have a part to play in the garden (and in deep pots where I grow many) right through until early Spring.
The Harvington Hybrids included in the gallery above have some of the most enchanting colours and forms, especially the ruffled doubles and moodier tones. Their heads may nod on slender stems, but they repay a closer look at their astounding details.
The Hellebore Gold Collection include pure white hybrids of Hellebore niger, their range of Snow Roses and new Lenten Roses. From their website – https://www.helleborus.de/en/helleborus-gold-collectionr/
Virtually no other plant can compete with the legends and myths that have sprung up around the Christmas Rose (Helleborus niger). It is mentioned in the earliest tales told by man. In Europe, the early Teutons, for example, considered it to be a sacred flower.
In the Middle Ages, people ascribed all sorts of curative properties and magical powers to the plant.
It is native to the European Eastern Limestone Alps and one of the oldest cultivated plants we know.
Christmas Roses in the Helleborus Gold Collection® are fully hardy, low-care and very long-lived evergreen perennials. Withstanding cold spells and snow, the Christmas Rose varieties produce dazzling white flowers all winter long. The gorgeous winter bloomers are perfect for the garden as well as being used as a charming container plant on balconies and terraces. The White Christmas® variety is ideal for floral decorations in living rooms and conservatories.
Snow Roses combine the positive qualities of their parents: the properties of the Christmas Rose and of Mediterranean Helleborus species such as the Corsican (Helleborus argutifolius) and the Balearic or blue-grey hellebore (Helleborus lividus), whose names indicate their provenance.
Their charming appeal and ability to withstand inclement winter weather come from the Christmas Rose. In the summer on the other hand, they benefit from their Mediterranean parents’ ability to cope with the heat and the sun. They do well in any type of soil, and they also thrive in sunny spots.
A newcomer this year is Ice N’ Roses® (Helleborus x glandorfensis), a very special Snow Rose beauty. Its masses of giant vivid red, pink and white blooms create a blaze of colour from December well into April.
Lenten Roses (Helleborus x hybrida) have long ceased to be the insider tip for garden enthusiasts. Featuring a sheer unlimited range of shapes and colours, they also make their appearance in the cold season and flower from January well into spring.
Lenten Roses (H. x hybridus) are often incorrectly called Helleborus x orientalis. However, they stem from crossings between the oriental hellebore (Helleborus orientalis) and various other species from this genus. Their parents are mainly found in Southeast Europe, the Balkans and along the Black Sea coasts.
Like all other varieties in the Helleborus Gold Collection®, Spring Promise® Lenten Roses meet the highest genetic standards in order to secure their place as brilliant highlights of colour in people’s gardens. The Spring Promise® Elly℗ Lenten Rose is a very early bloomer that produces elegant double flowers.
….. and much more in there to read too –
Tips for the garden
All varieties from the Helleborus Gold Collection® prefer rich and chalky soils, but will also thrive well in other locations that are not prone to waterlogging. You can improve very light and sandy soils by working in some bark humus, Dolomite lime and horn meal. Instead of Dolomite lime, you can also use eggshells.
Snow Roses will tolerate a sunny location. Christmas Roses and Lenten Roses prefer a place in the shade or partial shade and, above all, appreciate being protected from the blazing midday sun during the summer months. By contrast, the mild winter sun doesn’t bother them. If you don’t want to do without the hellebores’ charm in a flower bed that is in full sun, you can plant deciduous shrubs or trees nearby. These will soon provide the partial shade that is ideal for hellebores. In the garden, hellebores appreciate lasting companions such as perennials that do not spread excessively and, like hellebores, do not crowd adjacent plants. For optimum presentation, plant the perennials in groups of three to five or combine them with early spring flowers. If planted in the right spot, hellebores will last for decades. They will grow more beautiful and charming every year.
Step-by-step planting guide
Hellebores can be planted any time when the ground is not frozen. Optimal planting time is between September and October when the plants are not in flower. Avoid planting hellebores in summer, when the ground can be too dry. For optimum presentation, plant the perennials in groups of three to five or combine them with early spring flowers.
Remove the plant from its nursery pot. Immerse the root ball in water to make sure it is sufficiently moist.
Dig a hole approximately double the size of the current root ball to allow new roots to spread out unhindered. Loosen the soil at the bottom of the hole to a good depth.
Plant the hellebore so deeply that the top of the root ball is lightly covered with soil and use your hands to form a small circular ridge around the plant for improved water retention.
Water the plant in after planting.
Space Snow Roses and Spring Promise® Lenten Roses approximately 60-80 cm apart because the plants will grow strongly in their second year and require more space.
Christmas Roses are slightly more compact and slower growing. They only require approximately 30-50 cm of spacing.
The new Ice N’ Roses® Snow Roses need plenty of space and should be planted at a minimum distance of 80 cm from each other or any other plant.
Tips for balconies and terraces
Combined with conifers, checkerberries and other evergreen hardy plants, Christmas Roses and Snow Roses decorate spaces in winter that summer flowers would normally brighten up. You can even use Christmas Roses with some pine branches to create festive window box plantings in winter.
Hellebores are deep rooters, so if planting them in a container, you want to use a container that is deep enough. Containers should be thick-walled and sufficiently large to prevent the soil from freezing easily as the plants cannot absorb water when the roots are frozen. Containers must also be frost-proof. Be absolutely sure to avoid waterlogging by always using containers with drainage holes. To prevent the drainage hole from being blocked, place a layer of several centimetres of clay fragments or expanded clay granules at the bottom of the container. Use any standard planting media with a pH level that is not too acidic (do not use peat moss on any account; it is most unsuitable).
In summer, hellebores make beautiful ornamental foliage plants in tubs. Alternatively, plant them out in a suitable place in the garden in spring.
Christmas Roses, Snow Roses and Lenten Roses all happily grow and thrive well without requiring a great deal of maintenance if planted in the right spot. Hellebores do not tolerate being transplanted. Also avoid digging the soil around them. The leaves that have fallen off deciduous trees provide a layer of mulch in winter; simply leave them lying on the ground. They form a layer that activates soil life. A bark mulch cover can be applied as an alternative. Horn shavings and compost can be used as organic fertilizers. Remove any older or brown hellebore leaves.
With Lenten Roses, it is recommendable to remove all leaves before flowering starts in December and January (when budding stems are approximately 10 cm in height). Removing dead flowers from hellebores is normally not necessary; the slightly pink or green tones taken on by the flowers as they fade actually extend the flowering season in winter. After flowering, remove the seed pods before they open to avoid overcrowding; offspring plants normally don’t flower well and might suppress the original plants.
If you are planting Christmas Roses and Snow Roses in planters, tubs or window boxes, make sure the containers you are using are thick-walled to prevent the soil from easily freezing. They should also be frost-proof.
After planting, make sure that there is an adequate supply of water. Plants in containers should never be allowed to completely dry. Also, take care to avoid waterlogged conditions.
Helleborus with its various different species belongs to the buttercup (Ranunculaceae) family, along with other popular genera, such as clematis (Clematis), delphinium (Delphinium) and globeflower (Trollius).
There are two main groups of Helleborus. They are the caulescent and the acaulescent groups. The acaulescent species produces no stems while the caulescent species do produce stems. The rootstocks of these two groups are also different. The caulescent species cannot be produced from division.
The following list of Helleborus species, compiled by Joseph Woodward in 2006, contains information on which of the two main groups each species belongs to.
For more detailed information about any of the species listed, please click on the species name.
On this list H. abruzzicus and H. liguricus are described as species of their own. Furthermore H. bocconei, H. istriacus and H. hercegovinus are listed as independent species, which were observed as subspecies of H. multifidus in the past.
The Christmas Rose (H. niger) belongs to a group of its own. It produces no stems and might belong to the acaulescent species but H. niger differs from the other species of the Helleborastrum group, including all the acaulescent species except for H. thibetanus.
Hellebores are subdivided by Brian Mathew into six groups. The classification of the different groups is based on the following parameters:
– The presence of stems
– Carpels grown together at the base or not
– shape and texture of the anthers
– Size and shape of the seeds
– Ability of the plants to hybridize
– Differences of the leaves
– Colour of the flowers
This leads to following classification:
Today we have hybrids that have risen from either natural or handmade crossings between different helleborus species.
The hybrids between acaulescent species sometimes lead to misunderstandings, because they are unfortunately described wrongly as H. orientalis. The correct description of these hybrids should be: H. x hybridus.
– H. x jourdanii: Hybride aus H. foetidus und H. viridis
– H. x lemonnierae: Kreuzungspartner unbekannt
– H. x glandorfensis