A good year for hellebores

In the dark days of winter when snowdrops and hamamelis are the only spots of colour a range of different hellebores can offer an eye-catching unexpected pastel patchwork.

  • Hardy perennials that provide good colour in the winter garden
  • Their pastel colour range when grown nearby each other is itself attractive

Briefly upstaged by far more evanescent signs of spring the steady hellebores carry on holding their own until late April.

White House Farm conditions mean we have learned over the years the enormous difference between removing vs. not removing the spreading leaves as they drop to the ground in November. This is because here, if left on the plant to droop and flatten over the winter, mice find them ideal shelter and feed on the nascent flower buds underneath. On the years when we have remembered to spend a couple of hours in late October/early November with secateurs removing the dying leaves at the stem before they could start to attract mice under their layer of shelter the inflorescence the following January – blooming through to late April, in some cases – has been unparalleled in scale and vigour. If we don’t take this protective measure at WHF, sometimes only one or two late flowers will appear.

The most remarkable thing about Hellebores is they start blooming in January when very little other colour is visible, and many are still going strong in late April, others till elegant blooms fade to pastel green. This picture was taken on April 21st 2022:

For an excellent range of hellebores, John Massey’s Ashwood Nurseries offers one of the best selections of available plants in the UK, John having been a keen collector of hellebores as in the last two decades breeders like himself radically expanded the range of hellebore colours and petal markings. The private garden of the late plantswoman Veronica Cross in Stoke Lacey, Hertfordshire has an outstanding collection of hellebores, mainly based on John’s creations.

By Clare L. E. Foster, WHFAF Trustee

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