Every Blooming Thing: Heavenly hellebores
Elegance Hellebores are elegant plants, adding color to your lightly shaded gardens at a time when few other plants dare to bloom.
Flower colors range from pale green and creamy white to ruby, garnet and deep amethyst. They are their prettiest from winter into spring. Their delicate flowers open like cups or bells either outward facing or drooping amid leathery green leaves.
Christmas rose and Lenten rose form low clumps, their leaves have no obvious stems. Corsican hellebore and Bear's Foot hellebore send up leafy stems from the ground, the dome-shaped blossom clusters appearing at the stem tips. After bloom, stems die to the ground just as new stems grow up to replace them.
A traditional garden favorite, Christmas rose, H. niger, bears white flowers in December. Each leafless flower stem usually holds one upward facing blossom two inches across; the color is white at first but turns purplish pink with age. Dark green, lusterless leaves are divided into several lobes with a few large teeth.
The most popular hellebore is H. Orientals which flowers in early spring around the period of Lent, thus being commonly known as the "Lenten rose." It is excellent for bringing early color to shady areas.
Flower stems bear a few modified leaves and are branched with clusters of large flowers that tend to nod toward the ground. Colors range from greenish or buff tinted with through pinkish shades to liver purple, often with dark spots in the centers. Leaves are larger, broader, and glossy, with five to eleven leaflets per leaf. Boasting the most graceful foliage,
Bear's Foot hellebore, H. foetidus, has seven to nine blackish green, narrow leaflets at the end of each leafstalk. In late winter and early spring, clusters of inch-wide flowers are light green with purplish red edges.
Corsican hellebore, H. argutifolius, is the largest species, almost shrubby, when growth is mature. This quick-growing, clumping evergreen perennial has leafy stems two to four feet tall bearing large leaves with three individual leaflets that are a marbled blue green above and somewhat purplish beneath. Large light yellow-green flowers appear above the leaves in clusters from late fall to spring. This great foliage accent plant takes on a shrub like appearance in the garden and through usually not long lived, old plants are 4 to 5 years old, it will often reseed to continue on.
All hellebores appreciate rich soil and regular watering. Woodland conditions, medium shade to filtered sunlight with moist soil. These are permanent perennials, never needing division. They resent transplanting and may take up to three years to recover, if at all.
To use in flower arrangements seal ends of cut stems by searing over a flame or immersing in boiling water for a few seconds, then place in cold water.
It is almost impossible to own just one hellebore, I should know as my collection has grown to five in my shade garden. The colors are amazing and they make a dreary day bright.
The Red Bluff Garden Club's next meeting will be at 1 p.m. Jan. 29. Chris Moats will be speaking on seed and veggies. The meeting will be at 12889 Baker Road in Red Bluff.
Diane Cleland is a member of the Red Bluff Garden Club, which is affiliated with Cascade District Garden Club, California Garden Club; Pacific Region Garden Club and National Garden Clubs Inc.