Perhaps the most intriguing, diverse and subtly alluring plant of the winter garden is the hellebore. Original plantings of H. argutifolius, the Corsican hellebore, can be seen at the west end of the garden. This is the largest, most robust and earliest blooming of all the hellebores, and with its large trusses of light charteuse flowers and spiny grey green leaves, has a strong presence in the winter border. H. foetidus may be found in various settings throughout the garden and identified by its very dark green, long and narrow leaves and green flower trusses sometimes rimmed in red as in the variety 'Wester Flisk'. This is a short lived perennial which self-seeds freely in our climate. Both of these species are available in specialty nurseries but not to the extent of the more recent, showy hybrids which are very often crosses of the H. orientalis strains and feature large, beautifully marked single blooms, often spotted, mottled or veined in a variety of strong but muted colors ranging from pure white to pink, burgundy, black, and yellow or peach. A good selection of these hybrids are featured in the bed behind the teak bench.
For my money, the hybrid which excels above all others sits beside the arbor at the entrance to the garden. This magnificent specimen goes by the name of 'Honeyhill Joy' and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in purchasing just one hellebore, or starting a collection. A word of warning---hellebores are highly addictive. Once besotted with this plant you are likely to venture out in the worst of weathers to the back of beyond in search of the perfect addition to your collection.
Intrigued? Plan to attend the I Heart Hellebores Lecture and Plant Sale this coming Saturday, February 28 from 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm. Dave and Annilese Doolittle, owners of Petal Heads Nursery will present a slideshow and present Helleborus varieties that are brand new to horticulture, standouts that offer the finest garden performance, as well as the hard to find varieties that have shaped Helleborus breeding efforts throughout the world. Several species will be highlighted and discussed, and tips to ensure premier results will be shared. They’ll be bringing along a hefty load of Hellebores with them to sell so no one has to go home disappointed, wondering where to find these wonderful plants.
Reservations are not required but a $5.00 donation to the garden is requested.
Happy Hellebore Gardening!