Have I talked to you about hellebores? Well even if I have, I think they’re worth mentioning again, particularly right now when the garden is positively brimming with them!
I find it intriguing that hellebores are so closely linked to the Christian year. At Christmas 2015 I was given a beautiful white ‘Christmas rose’. My previous experience of this particular type of hellebore was that they are somewhat challenging. The only one I’d owned before had flatly refused to flower at Christmas and, in fact, one year produced one single brilliant flower in August! After a few years of limping along with the occasional odd flower, it vanished! So having been given a rather splendid specimen, I treated it very gingerly throughout last summer and was thrilled to see it come back into flower just before Christmas. It has been flowering constantly ever since and has just recently produced a further two pure white blooms.
However, it is the ‘Lenten rose’ that is dominating the garden right now. By the way, I should add that neither are actually ‘roses’ apparently! It could be as much as fifteen years since we purchased our first helleborus niger. We had been inspired by a Spring pot being planted up on Gardeners’ World and went out to search for a dark purple plant. A year or so on and we began to realise just how many tiny seedlings were being produced from this plant each year. We potted some up carefully and weeded others out. We eventually began to plant up the far end of the garden with the ones that had matured into flowering. Of course these then went on to self-seed too … what more do I need to say?!
Spurred on by our success, we purchased a larger plant of the more traditional cream with burgundy freckles variety. This eventually outgrew its pot and, along with its offspring, it to moved to the far end of the garden. Now we occasionally refer to this as the ‘woodland garden’ which is a rather grandiose title for the triangle beyond the cat fence which is extremely shady as it is dominated by our cherry plum tree, a large holly beyond the fence and a self-set sycamore which Network Rail refuses to chop down. Of course this makes the perfect conditions for hellebores which perform the classic woodland cycle of coming into flower and doing their stuff before the leaf canopy fills in above. Consequently they have multiplied in their thousands! Every year we pull out hundreds and hundreds of tiny seedlings, sifting through to see which ones look strong enough to leave or are placed conveniently to fill a gap.
About five years ago, we bought a tray of pale pink hellebores and these have now started crossing with the others. So we are seeing some intriguing hybrids combing various shades of pink, purple and cream. Whilst they are very beautiful, they are also very frustrating in the way that they hang their heads so that you have to bend over and lift the flower to see their full glory … which is exactly what I did last weekend to collect the photos on this page! It was a true delight to discover what lay beneath.