Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Oh, Hellebores!

Hellebores (Helleborus) are a genus I knew nothing about until several years ago. Back when I was an avid Martha Stewart Living viewer, I saw Martha singing their praises on a gardening episode, and I thought, wow, these look really cool and we should try some in our woodland garden.

We planted our first hellebore (one of the Royal Heritage series) in the fall of 2005, and last year we got a good price on some mail order specimens and planted four more, one of which is the one featured in these photos. And, on a brief plant shopping expedition last Sunday (during which we got some really cool new stuff you'll be seeing soon) we found another nice specimen at the reasonable price of $8.99. If that sounds pricey to you, let me just add that finding good specimens can be an expensive proposition, especially if you venture beyond the mixes and go for specific species ... I've seen some priced at over $20 each for some of the more exotic ones, so any time we see a nice one under $10, we tend to snap it up.

Hellebores are, once established, really tough plants and often can remain green all through the winter. They're often called "Lenten Rose" because apparently (though not here yet) they will bloom in late February -- early March even if winter still has its grip on the garden. Given that we still don't get a lot of blooms from them, it does seem that they take their time to get settled into their shady spots and get ready to put on a real show. So it was a pleasant surprise a week or so ago when I was out looking at things in the garden when I discovered this unobtrusive bloom almost hiding near the holly where it's planted. I'm not sure about the color of this one and what to really call it ... most hellebores have rather odd shades of pinks, lavenders, purples and dusky reds, and given what little I know about the "Royal Heritage" mixes, we're not sure what we'll get, though I'm really hoping for some purple myself. Time will tell, and many times with mixes of plants, the anticipation of finding out its true color is half of the fun growing them. In our experience so far, they are pretty easy to grow ... they like a mostly shady spot where a bit of sun is tolerated, and appreciate the loamy, moist and well-drained area where we have them planted. In any case, they make a really woodsy addition to the shade garden and also boast deer and critter repellent properties.

I ran into a reference the other night (see above link) with the myth and folklore of Hellebores, in which I learned that they have been reputed to have magical properties ... among which a certain witches' application of using them to summon demons! We don't plan on any of that around here, but it's often fun to research certain plants to see what people in the past have thought about them ... you can learn some really surprising things that way!

The first photo shows the bloom in its usual nodding position (which tends to remind me of antique lampshades) ... the second (courtesy of Fernymoss) is a fortuitous from below P&S shot that actually turned out quite well. We knew Olivia would be demanding inner bits so we tried to head her off at the bloom, so to speak. We were both delighted that one turned out so well! Tell me what you think ...


Family Man said...


To be so hardy they look very delicate. Now I was looking at the top picture and the bottom one, and if these things point toward the ground as the top appears to be, then to get the bottom picture you must have had to get down in the dirt to get the picture. Me thinks Olivia would be proud of you. :)

olivia said...

LOL, I am proud! It's not a photo until you have a dirty belly and knees ... ;)

The colour is odd, but fascinating. I really like the beige stripe down the middle, along w/ the dark veining.

Iowa Victory Gardener said...

Well thanks, but I wasn't the one to get the up close and personal shot, that was Fernymoss. They are such odd combinations of colors that we are still reserving judgement as to what to call them! No matter what, they are fascinating flowers I intend to research more as we discover their growing habits and preferences!

But again, no demon summoning at this house! We're just happy they bloom for us and if there are more this year, you'll see them here!