Daffodils and Crocus and reticulated Iris seem to get all the glory this time of year. And for good reason! Those of us that are hungry for color have our appetites satiated by these old-time spring favorites. Even those that aren't into gardening all that much love them and know what they are. But there are others that put on a fabulous show this time of year, in a slightly understated way.
Today, when I was at work, my co-worker Julie asked me about a new plant that she'd heard about recently. She wondered if I was familiar with it. "Helleborgs, I think they're called," she said.
Ah...Hellebores. Yes, I know them and love them. Julie, this is for you.
My mom was the first to introduce me to these unusual beauties. I think we were at the 2005 Cleveland Flower Show and there were some for sale. "Buy this," she said. I did, and several times after that, whenever I found them at a reasonable price. You see, Hellebores used to be quite expensive, but they have come down in price, just like orchids and Clivias.
If you've got a semi-shady spot, a Hellebore or two might be just the thing. Often, they're one of the first blooms of spring, and in some places, they'll even bloom in late winter. Mine were covered by a couple of feet of snow several times this winter and the foliage ended up being pretty ragged. When I noticed new shoots were coming up out of the ground, I simply cut the damaged foliage out. New shoots continue to emerge alongside the big buds and open flowers.
Though they usually take a couple of years to get settled in, they are pretty easy to care for. A wise person once told me to always add lots of compost to the hole when you plant them, continue to dress them with it each summer, and they'll reward you by spreading and with an increased number of blooms.
Last year, I purchased a 'Red Lady' and it's blooming now, along with the others. I'm not sure what the other ones are, although I do remember buying some from Park's when they had a big sale on them a couple summers ago, that were labeled 'Pine Knot Strain.' 'Ivory Prince' was purchased about a month ago and is in the basement greenhouse, awaiting a bit warmer weather for planting outside.
Blooming now, in the trellis garden:
Height: 12-18 inches
Sun: Shade to Part Shade
Water: Average. Do not overwater.
Bloom time: Late winter/Early spring