Graham Porter’s gardening: Sleeping beauties
Dec 4 2010 by Our Correspondent, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
FOR those of us with a few Hellebores in a shady corner of the garden it might seem a little early to be highlighting these early spring delights.
But if you get down on your knees and take a look, you might be surprised at the beginnings of a new season. The basal buds are just poking through the soil and it is time to cut back the old foliage from the summer to allow light and air in for these sleeping beauties.Let the winter sun kiss them and wake them up so that by late January your garden can once again enjoy the magic of those flowers.
Although the most popular hybrids these days are the Helleborus x hybridus types with their purple, pink, cream and yellow flowers, there are a number of other true species that are worthy of a position in the garden that not only have excellent floral displays to enjoy but can give a very good foliage display as well.
The Corsican Hellebore, H. argutifolius, has pale green flowers that are supported by some beautiful dark green leathery leaves. This species is well able to cope with heavy soils in dappled shade and can give ground cover in summer with its good foliage. The Christmas Rose, H. niger, with its white flowers from December onwards, is worthy of a garden position for its flowers alone but its foliage gives an added dimension in summer and autumn. Helleborus purpurescens from Eastern Europe has beautiful pink and purple flushed flower petals that are followed in summer by elegant leaves. It prefers an acidic soil in dappled shade. The Lenten Rose, H. orientalis is a prolific flowerer once established and the new leathery foliage rises up through the flowers to eventually cover them completely for the summer months.
Of course, the Helleborus x hybridus types will dominate displays in garden centres and nurseries but it worth searching out some of these other species to add colour and interest to your winter garden, remembering that, on warm winter days, a lone Queen Bumble Bee will take advantage of this extra source of pollen and nectar from whose activities you can harvest the seeds later in the summer to grow some more Hellebores.