Winter and Spring Hellebores

What’s the big deal with Hellebores?

Looking for winter and spring color for your garden can be discouraging. So many evergreens lack luster and offer no color. That used to be the case with Hellebores, otherwise known as Lenten Rose. For years Hellebores lacked polishing. They were often ratty looking. You couldn’t count on them for a specific color and growing them on your porch wasn’t even considered. Luckily, breeders recently perfected some old varieties that actually made a huge difference in the Hellebore world. Things have really turned around for them. As a matter of fact, Hellebores might be exactly what your garden (and patio) needs! Yes, gardeners are adding new varieties to their gardens, but they are still embracing the older types too. With so many species to choose from, why not try them all?

Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob

Why plant Hellebores?

Envision Hellebores in your garden. You can look out your window on a cool winter day at colorful flowers. They are incredibly hardy so most of them survive even the coldest winters (unless they are planted in South Dakota). Deer won’t touch them. You can plant Hellebores just about anywhere because they are tolerant to both sun and shade. Don’t worry about pH; they prefer alkaline soils, but do just fine in acidic conditions. Feel free to fertilize, but it is not an absolute requirement for them. You will love the evergreen foliage during late fall and early winter when almost no other perennials in the garden seems to have a heart beat. And, if that’s not enough, Helleborus even offer a good source of nectar for bees during late winter and early spring when food sources are scarce.

Pick great companion plants for your Hellebores like Fuchsia, Hosta, Galanthus, Ferns, Epimedium, Ligularia, Hakonechloa, Cyclamen, Ajuga, Vinca, Heuchera. Imagine Helleborus on your porch in your favorite container with violas and pansies that brighten up your entryway all winter long. In the landscape, try groups of three or more together for curb appeal. Consider planting Hellebores under deciduous trees where they will enjoy shade in the summer and bright light in the winter.

Hellebores in my garden

In my Pacific Northwest Garden, the Christmas varieties began blooming in December. Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob was the first to bud. The pure white flowers faded to pink as they aged. Early spring varieties followed the Christmas varieties with overlapping bloom times. Many of them peaked with the transition into spring with deeper color tones than the early varieties. Some are lovable for the foliage alone, like our mystery mutant.

Helleborus argutifolius

Helleborus argutifolius mystery cross mutant
Helleborus argutifolius mystery mutant

 

Helleborus argutifolius
Helleborus argutifolius

 

Helleborus Silver Lace
Helleborus Silver Lace

 

Helleborus Gold Collection® (HGC)

While most Helleborus are commercially propagated from seed, Helleborus Gold Collection are grown from tissue culture, creating clones of the mother plant. Home gardeners, be assured you are buying a plant that looks like the plant in the pictures when buying a clone.

HGC Christmas varieties produce early winter flowers because they have genetics from Helleborus niger bred into them. Growing HGC Christmas varieties in containers began taking off in recent years. Plant them in perennial gardens after they finish blooming. There’s nothing like pure white flowers in the garden at Christmas time!

Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob
Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob

 

Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob
Helleborus niger Gold Collection® Jacob in the window

 

HGC Early Spring varieties begin to bloom between late winter and early spring. These varieties are some of the first Hellebores to flower after the holidays at the beginning of the new year.

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Merlin
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Merlin

 

Helleborus x ericsmithii Gold Collection®  Monte Cristo
Helleborus x ericsmithii Gold Collection® Monte Cristo

 

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost

 

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Pink Frost

 

Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Snow Dance
Helleborus x ballardiae Gold Collection® Snow Dance

Helleborus orientalis hybrids

Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Aprictot Blush
Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Apricot Blush

 

Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Cherry Blossom
Helleborus x hyridus® Winter Jewels Cherry Blossom

 

Helleborus x hybridus (formerly orientalis)
Helleborus x hybridus (formerly orientalis)

Can’t find the Hellebores locally? Check out these mail order sources.

Bluestone Perennials

Plant Delights Nursery

Wayside Gardens

Plants Bees Love

If you plant a garden for the bees, your vegetables will love you for it!

Because vegetables require pollination to set fruit, growing plants bees love near your vegetable garden increases your harvest. Pollination happens when the wind blows the pollen from a male flower to a female flower or when a bee feeds on a male flower followed by a female flower thus spreading the pollen and fertilizing the female flower. If you grow plants bees love near your vegetable garden, the bees will most likely share the love with your vegetables, thus pollinating your veggies and giving you a bigger harvest!

Try planting these six plants bees love

1. Caryopteris

Caryopteris.JPG

CaryopterisCloseUp.JPG
The number one bee attracting plant is Caryopteris! These shrubs look alive with all the bees buzzing around on them. There must be fifty or more bees on each plant when it is flowering.
Caryopyeris x clandonensis ‘White Surprise’, shown above, is a newer variety with interesting variegation and blue flowers starting in late summer and lasting throughout the fall. This drought tolerant shrub performs well in a sunny location. They especially love slopes and well-drained areas.

2. Eryngium
20140723-205254-75174562.jpg
Not only do the bees love Eryngium, they make fabulous cut flowers. Grow them in a low water perennial bed because they are also drought tolerant!

3. Geranium ‘Rozanne’
GeraniumRozanne.jpg
Geranium ‘Rozanne’ attracts a fraction of the bees that Caryopyeris do when they are in bloom, however they do it over an extremely long period. Blooming June-October, this perennial attracts bees though out the entire growing season for most vegetables. Starting to bloom before your cucumbers have flowers and well after your pumpkins turn orange.

4. Coreopsis verticillata ‘Zagreb’
CoreopsisZagreb.jpg"
Coreopsis Zagreb offers mid-summer nectar to bees. This hardy, drought tolerant variety likes full sun and dislikes wet feet. The bright yellow flowers pack quite a show.

5. Lavender
Lavender.jpg
Throughout late spring and early summer each Lavender plant in my yard feeds no less than 3-4 bees at anytime during daylight hours. Having them planted near the veggies encourages the bees to pollinate them, though I’m not sure they ever leave the Lavender until the blooms dry up just after the squash, cucumbers and pumpkins begin flowering profusely. Plant will a late summer and fall bloomer like Caryopteris for mega bees throughout the growing season.

6. Oregano
20140802-171123-61883240.jpg
Oregano will endure neglect and infertile soil. My Oregano bloomed the second year throughout spring, summer and fall. Submerged in flowers, I harvested them anyway using the fresh leaves to flavor all of my dishes leaving the long stems and flowers for vases. Trust me, this is far better than drying the herb.

Why perennials?

Plants bees love come in many forms. Imagine for a moment buying one bee-loving plant each year for your garden and every year, they come back bigger and better. Eventually, you divide them to make two or more plants bees love. You might even share them with a friend trade them for a new plant. That’s how a bee-loving garden grows on a budget. Why else grow perennials? Most perennials require less water than annuals. The six on this post are all drought tolerant and low maintenance for your gardening enjoyment.