Make Way For Hellebores

Hasn’t it been a funny old winter so far? I had daffodils in flower before Christmas and my New Year count revealed a record 35 different flowers. 15 of these are most definitely out of season.

One flower that’s bucking that trend is the hellebore. It’s arrived bang on time and is rather welcome in displaying its normality. I’m a latecomer to their charms and now I’m in danger of becoming an enthusiast. I walked round my garden at the weekend and spotted all kinds of gaps in theborders. Once indoors I placed an order to fill those spaces immediately – for my first ever double hellebores, due to arrive in February.

Their downward facing blooms put me off somewhat at first, but my discovery of the more upright cultivars helped me admire their charms in more comfort. My new plants will be downward facing, but I have a cunning plan. Most of them are earmarked for my terrace beds where it’ll be easy to see them at eye level.

I’ve also grown them successfully in pots. My favourite is Helleborus ‘Anna’s Red’, named for the garden writer Anna Pavord. This pot is in a sunnier spot on the patio and so ‘Anna’ was the first to bloom in January. Her deep red flowers add a richness which is rare in the garden at this time of the year.

Now stirring into life are my pair of Helleborus x ericsmithii ‘Winter Moonbeam’ with creamy white blooms tinged with pink. These are in a shadier part of the garden, on either side of some steps. Their lighter flowershelp to lift the gloom in this spot.

Pot grown hellebores are easy. My plants came in 2 litre pots a few years back and I planted them out in large pots of at least 12 inches in diameter. A large dollop of leaf mould after flowering keeps them happy for another year, as does watering in dry spells. Their leaves have stayed healthy too – none of the dreaded leaf spot has appeared yet (crosses fingers). As a result I’ve ignored the regular advice to remove the leaves when the flower buds emerge.

The RHS shows in London at this time of the year have a great display of hellebores – indeed it was here where I first truly came to appreciate them. So I’ll be on the lookout at the shows this year to learn more about these beauties, and choose some for my woodland and shady borders.

Michelle Chapman is a gardener, freelance writer and blogger from Wiltshire. She is the author of the award winning blog, Veg Plotting, where she writes about her small town garden, seasonal food and anything else which strikes her whilst at her allotment.