Tag Archives: Winter Garden

Lenten Roses – Harbingers of Prettier Things to Come

Hellebores nodding in the winter sun - come summer they will be safely shaded by a nearby crepe myrtle

Hellebores nodding in the winter sun – come summer they will be safely shaded by a nearby crepe myrtle

I’d never heard of Lenten Roses (Hellebores) before I moved to the South where they are fairly popular.  You can buy full sized plants in bloom at nurseries for $15 to $25, or if you are a more patient sort (and cheap, like me!) you can mail-order small rooted divisions for considerably less.  A few years ago I bought an inexpensive 5-pack of assorted Lenten Rose divisions from my favorite bulb supplier – Brecks.  To grow well these beauties need:

  • a shady spot
  • rich, loamy soil (or well amended soil if yours is less than perfect)
  • adequate moisture – not too wet, and once established, they will tolerate some dryness
  • that’s it!

I took my babies to a shady spot in the side yard, tucked them in beside the Autumn Ferns and forgot about them.  If you start with divisions, your plants will likely not bloom until the second winter.  Two years later, I happened to be out on the screen porch in the dead of winter and to my amazement, there they were – blooming away while everything else was dormant.  Unfortunately they were totally wasted in an area you can’t even see from the house.  At the end of last summer I had my gardener transplant them to a perennial bed containing 2 Crepe Myrtles large enough to provide the required shade.  The perennials are all cut back when the Hellebores are in bloom, so they really have room to show off.  I couldn’t resist taking their portraits!

I especially love green flowers

I especially love green flowers

These rose-pink ones have just a hint of green in the center

These rose-pink ones have just a hint of green in the center

These are more of a lilac pink

These are more of a lilac pink – see how pretty the foliage is?

These are my favorites - the foliage is a little tatty, but the color is so unique!

My favorites – the foliage is a little tatty, but the color is so unique!

Aside from adding rare floral beauty to the winter garden, Hellebores boast several other pluses:

  • The large, showy flowers last 2-3 months
  • They thrive in cold weather – hardy to zone 4
  • When the blooms are spent, the plant itself can be an attractive, “neutral” filler in the shade garden
  • They are deer resistant – ’nuff said!
  • If your plants are happy, every few years you’ll be able to divide them and increase your collection (or share with friends).  The best time to divide/transplant Hellebores is early fall, right before their pre-blooming growth spurt.

My gardener told me they probably wouldn’t bloom this winter, but as you can see, they bounced right back.  I can’t wait for next winter!

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