Wednesday, 6 February 2008


Helleborus orientalis 'Hillier hybrid Pink Double Spotted'.

Hellebores, are winter and spring flowering perennials that are native to British Isles, Europe, parts of China, and Turkey. We commonly know them under the names of Christmas Rose, Lenten Rose or Stinking Hellebore and they make wonderful garden plants when little else is showing colour.

Helleborus x sternii 'Hot Flash' with Uncinia rubra

There are about 20 different species and crosses, most are noted for their frost resistance and ability to stand up to even the harshest conditions. They will tolerate most soils from chalk to clay and seem to be tolerant of acid soils too (the pictures in the blog are from my garden which is on acid soil). You can make them feel more comfortable with the addition of readily available mushroom compost if you are on acid soil, which will alter the pH of the soil because of the lime content in it. They enjoy plenty of humus or leaf mould in the soil , in conditions that don't get dry in summer, in shade or part shade, and regular mulching will help maintain plants in good condition.

Helleborus lividus

Hellebores have a long and ancient association with man, and have been variously used for medicinal, occult and warfare! The ancient Greeks used them to poison wells of their enemies, whilst Pliny described it as a purgative for the demented. Even in more recent times it was thought along with Borage to cure melancholy, and in old French legend, it was used by a Wizard to procure invisibility!

Helleborus foetidus

My personal favourites are the H. orientalis hybrids which have become the object of the plantsmen's skill to create better and bolder blooms in various forms and colours, where you can now find varieties sporting black, yellow pink , purple, red, spots, speckles and various double and anenome forms in seemingly unending variety. I have put a series of links showing where National Collections of Hellebores can be found and where they can be seen growing at the optimum in UK gardens on the right hand side of the blog.

In my own garden, I often cut them and bring them indoors, although they seem to last longer, and you can see their beautiful faces more easily, if you place them stemless in a shallow bowl of water as above. Below I have placed a slide show of some of the H. orientalis varieties I have in my own garden so that you can look at them individually and see which is which. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.