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Hello, Harbinger Hellebore!

A beautiful Helleborus in London Town's gardens

Helleborus, belonging to the buttercup family- Ranunculaceae, bring pure joy in the woodland gardens with their flowers blooming in middle of snowy cold February. If I had to pick one resilient, all season interest ground cover for deep shade woodland gardens, it would be hard to find a match to the genus Helleborus.

Details of the Helleborus

The flowers come in many colors, and they aptly have a droopy habit that allows them to stay untouched by the snow or sleet in cold months. The coarse leaves are a prefect combination to delicate ferns, bleedings hearts, and other dainty shade loving ephemerals.

Helleborus in the Azalea Glade

Helleborus also help hide any flaws. Planting them on slopes or under large shrubs is an excellent choice. Their low maintenance needs, evergreen habit, large droopy coarse leaves and easy multiplication by self seeding, help cover the ground faster and wider, and hide any minor weeds or leaf litter you would find on a woodland garden bed. To top it all, their best resilient feature might be their tolerance to drought and disturbed sites (they don't like water logged soil).

Another interesting feature of Helleborus is that the flowers are either acaulescent (without any stems or caulescent) or flowers with stems. One neat caulescent species is Helleborus foetidus which has a greenish white flower.

Close up of a Helleborus Flower

Hellebores flowers also work well as cut flowers if stems are long. But if the stems are not long, the flower heads can be cut, and they would wok fine floating in a bowl of water like Camellias.

One of the Helleborus varieties thriving on the slopes of the woodland gardens at London Town is Helleborus 'Red Lady.' 'Red Lady’ is one of a number of seed strain hybrid hellebores (known as the Lady series) developed by Gisela Schmiemann of Cologne, Germany (see also H. x hybridus 'White Lady'). See more about Helleborus × hybridus 'Red Lady' at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Plant Finder here.

Helleborus is also commonly called Hellebore, Christmas Rose, Lenten Rose, or Winters Rose. But the flowers do not look anything like a rose.

When planting Helleborus, plant them in clusters and on an incline, if you want a better view of the droopy flowers.

Helleborus is truly an all season and all star perennial with flowers that can bring cheer to any garden in exhausting dull winter weather. With bloom season starting in mid-February, Helleborus surely makes for a joyful harbinger of spring!


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