Sunday, April 19, 2009
The mighty hellebore
Certain plants seem right at home in Western New York gardens. Some of them I grow and like, but don’t get too excited about: hostas, daylilies, rudbeckia, echinacea. Some I feel happy about growing as successfully as I do: lilium, species tulips, clematis, David Austin roses. And then there are plants that truly surprise and delight me every season. Such a plant is the helleborus, which I first bought after seeing it on the back of a Wayside catalog in 1999 and thinking, “Hmmm, that looks interesting.”
I bought 3 plants, and 2 of them eventually matured. (Or maybe I only got two.) They were meant to be shades of rose and green, but I saw that the more sun they got the lighter they were in color, as the one you see above. I marveled at how they started flowering in late March and how the flowers lasted right into June, followed by lush, sculptural foliage.
Then, a few years ago, interesting cultivars of hellebore began to appear besides the single-flowered “Lenten rose.” I knew about an earlier-flowering variety (too early) and the helleborus foetidus, and had not been interested, but when I saw the double, and deeper-colored hybrids begin to appear in the Plant Delights, I had to have them. I now have some single and double-flowered mauve varieties and some double pink and whites on the way. These seem to adapt to my garden quite well; all have flowered the first season after late-summer planting, which is more than I can say for those earlier ones from Wayside.
I can definitely see myself becoming a hellebore collector.