Four types of hellebore

A must-have for the winter garden, hardy hellebores flower from late-winter to early spring. They also make great cut flowers - simply snip off flower heads and float in a shallow bowl of water.

There are many varieties of hellebore, ranging from the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, to the stinking hellebore, Helleborus foetidus. Hellebores provide a great source of colour in the winter months - some flower as early as December - and will tolerate full sun to almost full shade. They're rarely troubled by pests and diseases and will self-seed readily all over the garden.

Also popular is the Lenten rose hybrid, Helleborus x hybridus, whose flowers range in colour from immaculate white to virtually black, with nearly every shade of green, yellow, pink and purple in between.

They grow in most conditions, but thrive in well-drained, humus-rich soil, out of direct sunlight. Avoid moving or dividing them once established.

Hellebore varieties include:

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Lenten rose, Helleborus x hybridus

Bears clusters of saucer-shaped flowers coloured white, pink, green, mauve or smoky purple. Blooms may be plain or patterned. Plants will self-seed readily. Height/spread 45cm x 30cm.

Corsican hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius

Produces pendent, bowl-shaped, green flowers set against spiny, evergreen foliage. Height/spread 1.2m x 90cm.

Christmas rose, Helleborus niger

Despite its name, it's not that likely to flower for Christmas - more usually seen flowering from late-winter. Flowers are white, though sometimes flushed pink, and flat-faced. Height/spread 30cm x 45cm.

Stinking hellebore, Helleborus foetidus

Has more finely divided, elegant foliage than most hellebores, which produces an unpleasant smell when crushed. Bears clusters of nodding, lime-green flowers from midwinter to mid-spring. Height/spread 40cm x 45cm.

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