Oriental hellebore

by Adam Pasco

It's worth getting out into the garden even when the weather is so cold...there's a plant doing its own thing while everything around it is dull and dormant - the hellebore.

Hellebore flowerIt's worth getting out into the garden even when the weather is so cold. I find I've been missing out for the past few weeks; there's a plant doing its own thing while everything around it is dull and dormant - the hellebore. The oriental hellebore, in particular, is a stunning sight in winter gardens. A single plant spreads nicely each year, and mine now forms a bold clump covered with flowers. These cry out to be touched, begging for an individual flower to be turned over to reveal its hidden glory. Who could resist their charms? Petals surround a bold clump of stamens, looking so clean and productive that they're certain to pollinate and produce seed.

That northerly wind is cold and bracing, and while I'd love to stay outside and admire them for longer the warmth of the kitchen beckons. But I'm not returning alone. A single pure, perfect flower is carefully plucked, to be floated in a small glass bowl of water and used as decoration for the dinner table. The whole family can now admire its beauty without donning coats and boots. They ask "why would a plant produce such beautiful flowers in the middle of winter?". Sorry, I don't have the answer, but I'm glad they do!

I remember speaking to somebody from a nursery at one of the flower shows last year about a new variety of oriental hellebore being developed, with an upward-facing flowerhead. Unfortunately I can't remember who I spoke to! Once I've remembered I must get some more details and write about it further.

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Talkback: Oriental hellebore
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Gardeners' World Web User 07/02/2008 at 18:13

I have never grown hellebores before this year, and now i remember why. Agreed, the flowers are beautiful, but unless you are a worm on the ground beneath them, looking up, you cannot see their beauty. [Unless you handle them, of course] To me, they just look wilted and sad. Still, maybe when they clump up a bit, they'll look better. I hope so anyway.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/02/2008 at 19:56

I agree hellebores are underrated. They are lovely and all the more so because they flower at this time of year. Some of mine have been out for a few weeks whilst others are yet to come. I noticed I have several seedlings. I wonder what colours they will be? White and yellow colours dominate at present,the darker reds are just coming into bud.

Gardeners' World Web User 07/02/2008 at 22:18

Wasn't is Ashwood Nurseries near Kingswinford that are developing the upward-facing flowerheads?

Gardeners' World Web User 08/02/2008 at 09:25

I was a bit uncertain about the flowering of my hellebore. I bought a 6-pack one from the local garden centre. They were small and I was assured they would flower around jan-march. I bought them for a friend who wanted a flower to plant in bloom in memory of someone who had died.

However after planting them nothing has happened. I keep looking at photos of hellebores thinking it should look like that but they haven't flowered and aren,t showing any signs of flowering. Any suggestions.

Gardeners' World Web User 08/02/2008 at 19:21

You need to keep them well watered and feed them regularly in the summer to encourage them to flower in the winter. I have a number of helebores that I planted in spring/summer 2006, they did nothing last year but this year they are a mass of flowers. Another tip is to remove most of the big leaves when they start to flower so you get a better view of them.

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