Helleborus by any other name

A few years back, I discovered Helleborus when I worked as a volunteer at Greenspring Gardens in Fairfax County VA.  Native to Europe and Asia, these shade loving plants can take a bit of drought, and do well under trees. They slowly spread to fill a small garden bed, and some of them are prolific producers or seed and new plants. They like lime, so in spring I always make sure to add a little lime to their beds. 

I have divided my small yard into several small beds and the winter/early spring focal point in many of them is a hellebore.  Pictured are only a few of my plants.  I have about 8 and two more on the way from White Flower Farm. As you can see they come in several colors.

Here is what Wikipedia says about the Hellebore:

The genus is native to much of Europe, from western Great Britain, Spain and Portugal, eastward across the Mediterranean region and central Europe into Romania and Ukraine, and along the north coast of Turkey into the Caucasus. The greatest concentration of species occurs in the Balkans. One atypical species (H. thibetanus) comes from western China; another atypical species (H. vesicarius) inhabits a small area on the border between Turkey and Syria.

The flowers have five “petals” (actually sepals) surrounding a ring of small, cup-like nectaries (petals modified to hold nectar). The sepals do not fall as petals would, but remain on the plant, sometimes for many months. Recent research in Spain suggests that the persistent calyx contributes to the development of the seeds (Herrera 2005).

Although the flowers of some species may resemble wild roses (and despite some of their common names, such as “Christmas rose” and “Lenten rose“), hellebores do not belong to the rose family.

7 thoughts on “Helleborus by any other name

  1. Your garden is very inviting. Like the idea of “secret places.” Sounds like your dog knows she needs that exercise. I really like miniatures of any sort and those daffodils are really cute — never saw any before,.


  2. Thanks for the tip — we’re looking for some good shade-loving plants, and I figure if they grow as far north as the Ukraine, they’ll do okay in NY.

    Btw, I’ve been a fan of Jim Webb — he was instrumental in building the Vietnam Memorial, wasn’t he? Too bad he’s leaving; we need more like him.


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