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Hellebores In Winter

Hellebores……Winter’s Most Floriferous Plants.

Many of us put gardening on the back burner from November to February. The Hellebores, a group of hardy perennials with a passion for winter blooming, effectively reawaken our latent garden interest on presentation of their first winter blooms. These indispensable winter garden perennials are know as Christmas and Lenten Rose. While riding high in popularity throughout Europe, these plants are catching the attention of gardeners in Australia and North America.

Our goal at Art’s Nursery is to provide a select group of species and an outstanding selection of garden hardy hybrids that will provide winter interest and color in your garden setting.

CULTIVATION:
Hellebores are very tolerant of both soil types and climate. Most species and hybrids can be grown in Zones 4 to 10. Regardless of soil type, large amounts of organic matter should be amended to provide optimal growing conditions. A good draining garden loam enriched with rotted compost or well rotted manure is ideal. An annual fall dressing of composted organic material is all the fertilizer needed. A light side dressing of lime may be applied twice yearly, especially for H. niger and its hybrids.

Hellebores grown in the cooler coastal areas of British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest will perform best in full sun to partial shade. Once established, the plants are quite drought tolerant. Enough water should be provided to ensure that the plants do not completely dry out.

PESTS AND DISEASES:
While not entirely pest free, hellebores are relatively free of disease and pest damage. Spring growth may be eaten by slugs and snails. Occasionally aphids may be a problem but are easily controlled using insecticidal soap. Black Spot, a problem frequently associated with roses, is sometimes noted but responds well to the same treatment given to roses.

HELLEBORE SELECTIONS:
There are less than 20 known Helleborus species and a large number of hybrids. All but one of the species (H. lividus) is perfectly hardy in southwest British Columbia.

The following species and hybrids are currently available at Art’s Nursery.

Helleborus argutifolius The Corsican Hellebore is a handsome plant with robust growth, forming upright clumps, with evergreen leaves. Pale yellow/green, cup-like flowers bloom from January through July making them great performers in the garden. Easy to grow with height and spread to 36”. Best grown in full sun. Helleborus argutifolius ‘Pacific Frost’ is a fine variegated form of the species above.

Helleborus foetidus A handsome species with interesting purple-red coloration on both the leaves and the flowers. Its small pale green flowers are about an inch in diameter opening from beautiful and numerous buds. Most flowers are tipped by a narrow band of burgundy-purple. New varieties are on their way.

Helleborus x hybridus “Lenten Rose” Formerly called the Orientalis Hybrids, these show off hybrids are the immensely popular plants in the Helleborus genus. A broad selection of large 3 to 4” flowers with an endless array of colors from pure white, yellow, pink to deepest red, and near black are available in either solid or spotted forms. Exciting new colors and flower forms are in development including apricot, yellow, bright red, double, anemone and picotee.

Helleborus x hybridus ‘Dark Beauty’ is a beautiful named clone having deep maroon flowers with darker reverse. This is a real standout in the winter garden having rich green foliage with maroon tints on the leaves and stem.

Helleborus niger “Christmas Rose” is a beautiful and popular plant but does not bloom at Christmas in our area. It does need ideal growing conditions to perform at its best. A deep, rich soil, adequate moisture and a well drained location are desired. H. niger performs best when given side dressings of lime. The dark green leaves contrast with the dazzling white flowers with hints of pink forming as the flowers age. Many new hybrids are in development.

Be careful, a lasting love affair with hellebores is contageous!

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