In My Garden – Hellebores

Hellebores are evergreen perennial flowering plant, part of the Ranunculaceae or Buttercup family. They originated in both Europe and Asia and now have numerous varieties of hybrids.

The flowers have five petal-like sepals surrounding a ring of small cup-like petals developed to hold nectar. They bloom through winter and spring with the sepals remaining on the plant for months. The blooms can be single as well as double, frilled, and pendant or outward facing. Colours range from dark plum shades and purple through a variety of shades of pink even to yellows and bright white. Some have a veined appearance and others are picotee-edged in a deeper colour.

Hellebores like sun in winter and dappled shade in summer. They do well in partly shaded areas of the garden such as beneath deciduous trees and shrubs. The leaves do scorch in summer if they are subjected to full day-long sun. They have no problem with frosts but these are rare in my part of Melbourne.

Nursery advice is that hellebores like rich, well-draining soil but they are surviving quite well in our heavy clay soil. They are reasonably dry tolerant once established and require no extra watering other than the rest of the garden receives in summer. The rest of the year they make do with the usual autumn, winter and spring downpours.

Hellebores sometimes suffer from aphids but, so far, it isn’t a problem I have encountered with them. They will self-seed and any resulting seedling will need around three years before it flowers.

In the northern hemisphere, they are known by common names such as the Lenten Rose, Winter Rose, Snow Rose and Christmas Rose because various types bloom around these festivals and during the snowy winter months. Here in Australia they are generally just called hellebores.

I think Helebores look there best when grown in large clumps. The paler shades have an understated appearance until you get closer to the plantings and realize they are not a mass of greenery but pretty pale bells. I am slowly, year by year, adding to my collection of hellebores and have planted them under  my camellia bushes and interspersed them with native violets. They pretty much take care of themselves (like everything else in my garden) other than a bit of a trim when they look scraggly in early winter, and watering in the height of summer.

8 thoughts on “In My Garden – Hellebores

  1. Lovely post and pictures, Catherine. Hellebores are among my favourite flowers, and I have quite a number in my garden in southern England, mostly in a sort of woodland setting, under deciduous trees. I have had many of them for years and they seed very readily. I have dug up dozens of little seedlings and replanted them around the garden, though of course you never know what colour your new plants are going to be! Although I agree with you that they look at their best in large clumps, I do find it’s best to keep any special varieties on their own to save their offspring being sullied by the commoner ones! But they’re all lovely anyway…

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    • Thank you Carolyn. I had never thought about the mixing of strains before and can see the sense in keeping them apart. I am limited in what I can do as ours is a narrow suburban block and one side gets the full sun in summer. Your garden must look beautiful when they are in bloom.

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  2. I’m surprised that they survive the Australian heat, but then they’re tough blighters. Around here they’re also known as christmas roses as they flower throughout the winter. I love the shapes of the flowers and leaves and their subtle colours and have painted them a few times.

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    • You’d be amazed at what does survive. As long as they are in the shade and get a bit of water, they are fine. I wonder, though, if over the years what we have here has developed to be more heat resistant.
      The only thing I have a bit of trouble with is hydrangea. The plants themselves survive but when we get days in the high 30s, the leaves and flowers burn even if they are in the shade. I probably should be sensible and grow more native plants but native grasses look more like weeds to me.

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      • I saw magnificent hydrangeas in New Zealand, but then I suppose it’s that bit further south and the best ones were on south island. Still, we all try and grow the impossible – the lemon tree has come in for now along with the bougainvillea and plumbago and a few others, though my pomegranate tree is too big to bring in – though it’s survived so far.

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        • I think if the weather changes aren’t sudden and you can prepare, you can nurse most plants through the worst. Growing bougainvillea and pomegranate in the UK seems quite an achievement.
          The South Island of New Zealand is beautiful – you can see where Peter Jackson got his inspiration for Rivendell.

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