The nodding flowers and dark foliage of this perennial bring life to its surroundings.
The winter garden may be mostly dormant, but not when there are hellebores around. With their nodding flowers and dark green foliage, these hardy perennials can add color and life to a drab landscape.
Native to Europe and Asia, hellebores are shade-loving perennials with evergreen-like foliage. "As attractive as the new foliage can be, though," says master gardener Paul James, "it's the flowers that make the plant so delightful." Varieties like the Lenten rose bloom during the period of Lent.
And while another variety known as the Christmas rose doesn't look much like a rose, it has been known to bloom as far north as Boston, buried beneath a blanket of snow during Christmas.
Caring for hellebores requires planting in a rich, fairly moist soil that drains well and is slightly alkaline. Hellebores don't react well when disturbed or moved, so it's best to find a good location and plant them permanently in one spot. In the early winter, the older foliage turns brown. Simply trim away the old foliage to keep the plants looking fresh. Another important detail to note about hellebores is that the entire plant is poisonous, even down to the sap, which has been known to cause skin irritation.
"As far as plant combinations go, hellebores mix well with all kinds of spring-flowering bulbs, as well as shade-loving perennials like hostas, ferns and even columbines. As for me, however, I like to plant them beneath the shade of small trees, where they can be, like me, the star of their own show," Paul says.