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The Hellebore season is almost here. At the dawn of the new year, these sturdy perennials begin to shine. Despite their fragile appearance, they can withstand just about anything that nature brings. Snow, ice, rain, they just don't really care. What will damage them is too much direct sunlight (hardly likely in January). Position them in shady places so they are protected during the hotter parts of the year. They also won't enjoy sitting in a permanent bog. But apart from that, they are dynamite!
We need to cherish plants that flower in winter
What do Hellebores give you? Winter flowers, and anything that blooms in winter is a jewel. Hellebores are often called Lenten roses because many of them start to bloom at the beginning of Lent. This year, 2018, this commences on Valentine's Day, 14 February. But well before this, the white Hellebore, Helleborus niger, is decorating the dark soils with creamy white flowers with its distinctive yellow stamens. This is the variety that is most often called the Christmas rose.
There are few plants that flower in shade
These wonderful perennials are ideal situated under deciduous trees where little else will thrive. By the time the trees are in leaf, the flowers will be over and the canopy will provide the shade that's required. They are also perfect on a shady steep bank. Why? Because if you position yourself below the flowers you will have the best chance of viewing their beauty. Hellebores are known for their nodding, down-turned flowers and their true beauty often goes unrecognised.
Beauty of the discrete kind is worth celebrating
The downturned flowers are all the more desirable in their covertness! But the secretive nature of their beauty has been overcome in a few Hellebore species. These include Hellebore x hybridus 'Red Lady', which bears its deep red flowers on upright stems. And as more hybrids are created, there's an increasing trend for flowers that are more 'visible'.
Even the foliage is attractive
Even when Hellebores aren't in flower, their foliage is attractive too. The majority of Helleborus are evergreen and leaves can be many different shapes according to the variety. Some form into rosettes; others are finely divided and elegant and there are even variegated forms too. These perennials make a good ground cover for shady places and can help to keep weeds at bay throughout the year.
Winter flowers offer a ray of hope and a reminder that spring comes next
How do you maximise the pleasure that Hellebores bring? Here's a few tips: During early and mid-winter, trim off some of the foliage where you see emerging flower buds. This will enable better viewing of the flowers once they open.
Mulch the ground around your Hellebores to keep the flowers clean and avoid mud splatters in the rain. Old bark; gravel, compost or leaf mould is ideal.
Ensure your soil is free-draining as Hellebores won't appreciate being sited in a bog. Once flowers appear, cut some of them to enjoy in the home. How to achieve long lasting blooms? There's a secret and it's all about harvesting at the best time
What's the best time? BEFORE the stamens appear. Cut your flowers before they look their best. Display them in a simple saucer of water - blooms only without stems. They look amazing and should last for several days.
And finally: these perennials are virtually trouble free and easy to maintain
All they need is moist, free-draining soil, shade and a quick tidy up in early winter. They are troubled by very few pests. What's not to love? Don't miss the opportunity to make the most of a time of year when there are so few flowers to celebrate. Plant Hellebores now, provided the ground isn't frozen, and you too will be blessed with beauty that can be equalled by just about none. Eight different varieties of Hellebores are currently available at Perfectplants.co.uk. Plant en-masse for maximum effect and enjoy the winter garden!