Hellebores are my choice for Plant of the Month for February. I know I already posted a picture of them before, and I hate reusing the same picture-so these are new pictures! I can cheat a little can't I?
Hellebores just have to be the choice for plant of the month. Not because they are beautiful and bloom at a time little else is blooming, but because they bloom for about five months! Yes, it is true. I have had these two hellebores, aka Helleborus x hybridis, in my garden for about two years. Last year they were still blooming in May and I just couldn't believe it. I don't know of any other perennial in middle Tennessee with such a long period of bloom.
When I first heard of hellebores was when the Perennial Plant Association chose it as their 2005 Plant of the Year. I knew I had to have some. I purchased some Christmas roses from mail order and promptly planted them. They never grew. Christmas rose is Helleborus niger, and is not the same as Helleborus x hybridis, aka Lenten Rose.
According to the Perennial Plant Society's website found at: http://www.perennialplant.org/ppy/39068%20PPA.pdf, hellebores known as lenten roses used to be called Helleborus orientalis. Until researching them I still referred to them by their former name. Oops.
Also, according to the Perennial Plant Association's website, hellebores should be grown in humus rich soil. Grown in the north, hellebores can probably withstand full sun and are drought tolerant. In the south they do best grown in the shade of deciduous trees. I have mine growing on the north side of my home within ten feet of a cedar tree. They share the space with heucheras, daffodils, arum italicum, and hydrangeas. I did not have to water the hellebores last summer at all. Though, to be fair, they may have received some water when I watered the adjacent 'Limelight' hydrangea. I just love these plants. Another benefit of the hellebore is that it is evergreen and deer don't seem to want to eat them. You want to cut back the foliage prior to it growing its flowers in late January to early February.
Propagation can be done from seed, though hellebores do hybridize freely, so the off spring may not look like the parent plant. When I purchased my potted hellebores off from the shelf at Wal-Mart, I looked very hard to find some with seeds. The more the better. I am anxiously awaiting baby hellebores and hope my three clumps grow very big. You can divide established clumps, but recovery time is long and is generally not recommended. I have not tried it and we all know how I like to divide. I am waiting for the seedlings as it seems most folks increase their inventory in this way.
The first two pictures are of different clumps of what looks to be the same type of plant. The third picture is of a different hellebore. I am not sure of the cultivar though I may have a tag somewhere. I purchased it from Hosta Haven (http://www.hesenergy.net/scotrust/) in Hopkinsville last fall. (Expect a post on Hosta Haven, but for now check out their website if you have never heard of Hosta Haven) The foliage of this last hellebore is unique in that it is finer cut and holds up better to the winter weather. I hope the flowers surprise me pleasantly by being different from the other two as well.
in the garden....