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.