Hellebores for an Early Spring Garden

March 7, 2013 § Leave a comment

I made a spontaneous weekend trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show last weekend. What you usually see at early spring flower shows are flowers and shrubs and even trees that have been heated and pampered to produce blooms long before they’d do so with Mother Nature’s guidance alone. That’s what people come for—to be inspired by what the warmer weather promises.

Flower Show visitors don’t have to wait for long to see a few of the plants that were in full bloom indoors. The hellebore (Helleborus) is a good example of that.

Hellebores bloom in late winter and early spring—some varieties as early as January. There’s been a resurgence in interest in this perennial plant over the last decade or so, and plant breeders have introduced all sorts of cool flower colors and foliage colors. The hellebore’s leaves, by the way, are evergreen – they won’t die back in winter, which is another cool thing about this plant.

Helleborus 'HGC Mahogany Snow' planted en masse at the Philadelphia Flower Show

Helleborus ‘HGC Mahogany Snow’ planted en masse at the Philadelphia Flower Show

Take Helleborus ‘HGC Mahongany Snow’, for instance. This variety can begin blooming as early as January in some areas. And the blooms are beautiful—dusty rose buds open into creamy white flowers. The leaves are chocolatey in color and the flower stems reddish. The whole package—leaves, stems and blooms—gives the garden some low-key color at a low-key time of the year. And they’re astounding planted en masse like this.

There’s been a push in recent years to sell hellebores as potted plants in the late fall through winter. Give them as Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts, that sort of thing. Think of them as temporary blooming houseplants biding their time until you can plant them outdoors in spring. It’s a good idea. In fact, I have had a potted hellebore ‘Jacob’ in my office window since late December. It’s looking a little weak right now, but that’s ok—it’ll be heading outside in a few short weeks.

Why you might enjoy hellebores:

  • Blooms way early in the year, just when your garden needs it!
  • Come in some great colors—both flower and leaf color
  • Perennials, so you’ll have them year after year, and they’ll get bigger each year
  • Evergreen foliage for year-round color
  • A good choice for your partial shade garden, under bushes, and so forth
  • Deer resistant—bonus!
  • Nice as winter houseplants—another bonus!

 

Have you tried hellebores? How have they held up in your garden? Leave a comment and let me know.

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