The late hellebores are only slightly tardy

However he is tempted, the gardener should never claim “there’s never been a winter like this one”. Every one is unique, with highs and lows and perhaps wild swings from the average, but there’s something unusual and much that is typical in every season. The one that is now thankfully past was very typical, with few extremes besides persistent dampness.

Though I recall days when nighttime winter temperatures dropped to ten or more degrees below zero (I recall eighteen below from the 70’s, long ago when much younger, so perhaps prone to embellishing), that’s not going to happen today. If we have a few nights that approach zero, that’s not far out of the ordinary.

In the garden, swings in flowering times of a week or two are nothing to be excited about, and variances of a month or longer are not unusual for winter blooms. Many hellebores are off to a late start, with some that often begin flowering in early to mid February not showing their first color until early March. In this garden, among dozens of hellebores, the first blooms can range from January, with later ones not flowering until early March.

So, for the latest of the hellebores, the timing of many that are coming into flower in this week of mild temperatures is not far off the average.

27 Comments Add yours

  1. Bonnie C. says:

    What lovely blooms!! Mine are in full bloom as well, but as I’ve mentioned before, even though all three were supposed to be “mixed colors”, all three turned out to be a deep dark burgundy, so don’t really “pop” like yours. But I do like the flowers in general, so will just have to add some specifically lighter-colored varieties in the future.

    1. Dave says:

      When possible, it’s good to pick hellebores that are flowering, but most are grown under plastic for a degree of cold protection, so they flower a few weeks early. Older varieties were often sold as “selections”, which were seedlings with similar, but not identical genetics. I suppose that new introductions are propagated by tissue culture so that they are identical.

      1. Bonnie C. says:

        Yes – I’ve never found Hellebores in bloom at any nursery centers. Will probably have to depend on buying named varieties that seem to primarily have lighter-colored blooms.

    2. The English Gardener says:

      I don’t know where you live, A nearby friend who has many beautiful hellebores, this past week went to PIne Knot Farms, in Clarksville Virginia to add to her collection of double hellebores. They have an annual festival from February through March. Dave may be familiar with this source,. They are way south of me here in my Central Virginia home.
      I have no connection to the farm so I’m not promoting them.

      1. Dave says:

        Many of the first hellebores in this garden were Pine Knot selections, and I have a few morerecent purchases that will flower this year for the first time. I nearly went down there a few weeks ago, but work plans changed.

  2. willowmanvt says:

    Wonderful Dave! These are so beautiful! Michael


    1. Dave says:

      Very happy that spring has arrived. Not yet in Vermont, I’m sure.

    2. Bonnie C. says:

      Thanks “English Gardener” – for reminding me about Pine Knot Farms. While they’re a bit far from me here in Culpeper, I do remember perusing their site when I first became interested in Hellebores. They do offer some lovely selections, & I definitely see some that I wouldn’t mind adding to my garden. Prices seem very reasonable as well.

      Again – thanks!! : )

  3. Don Peters says:

    Those are some absolutely gorgeous blooms! I wonder if these blossoms face up, or if you had to prop them up to fully appreciate them.

    1. Dave says:

      Most are propped up with a few that face up. Many of the newer introductions have upward facing blooms.

      1. Bonnie C. says:

        Downward-facing blooms are another problem with my trio of dark burgundy Hellebores. That only makes it doubly difficult to notice the flowers. Will definitely be looking for varieties with more upward faces as well as lighter/brighter colors when I shop.

  4. The English Gardener says:

    Spectacular Dave, made my day!
    Thought Spring had arrived in my central Virginia garden just south of you, after that 70° day we had but awoke to 30° this morning.
    These gorgeous hellebores were a sight to behold when I opened your email.
    Puts my sweet little daffodils to shame.
    The English Gardener

    1. Dave says:

      Wonderful that flowers of daffodils and hellebores are not bothered by late freezes. Fortunately, early flowering magnolias are late or blooms would be ruined.

  5. Bonnie C. says:

    I’ve noticed while perusing Hellebores on the internet that some new varieties have long-stemmed blossoms & claim that they can be used as cut flowers. Wonder how well they actually work for that. (Although since Hellebores are toxic & I have indoor cats, doubt I’d try it.)

    1. Dave says:

      I’ve planted three hellebores, Anna’s Red, Penny’s Pink, and Molly’s White (from the same breeder) that have unusually tall stems and side to upright facing flowers. These are later flowering than others, just coming into bloom. The photo at the top of my page is Anna’s Red coming out from under plastic in late February, thus the early bloom.

  6. tonytomeo says:

    Dang! I just recently wrote about how poorly hellebores do here, and why I dislike them so. I would not dislike them if they looked like yours.

    1. Dave says:

      The attractiveness of plants is often dictated by the local weather, but also by what else is growing and looking good. You have many more choices for late winter, early spring color, so hellebores are never going to be as popular. Here, hellebores increase in popularity every year, and they are deer resistant, which is a big deal for us.

      1. Bonnie C. says:

        The deer-resistant part is why I decided to try Hellebores in the first place, although something that puzzles me is that the deer completely ignore two of my plants, yet eat the third one every year. Exact same variety, color, & location, but for some reason they refuse to allow that one lone plant to thrive.

      2. Dave says:

        I hear occasionally that rabbits eat hellebores, and that deer might eat a leaf or two before recognizing the bitter taste. Deer and rabbits are regularly seen in this garden, but there has been no nibbling on hellebores that I’ve seen. Many of the most deer resistant plants contain alkaloids that give a bitter taste, and leaves are poisonous, usually in quantity.

      3. tonytomeo says:

        Yes, that is precisely why snowdrops are not popular, and are actually quite rare. They might be happier here than hellebores; but I do not know, just because no one grows them. There are so many more colorful flowers blooming right through winter.

      4. Dave says:

        Here, diehard gardeners appreciate winter flowers more because there are so few, but most people wouldn’t venture out into the cold even if the garden was filled with blooms. Daffodils and forsythia are popular because they flower after the worst of winter is past.

      5. tonytomeo says:

        Daffodils and crocus are popular with those from colder climates. When I see lilacs in a garden, I can sort of guess that whomever planted it is from Texas or Oklahoma. I don’t know why they are so popular with that crowd.

      6. Dave says:

        Virginia is the southernmost point where lilacs flower dependably on this coast. Southerners would love to plant them, certainly because we often want what we can’t have.

      7. tonytomeo says:

        Although I grew up with lilacs, I was later informed that they do not bloom here. That is how French hybrids became popular.
        Lilacs do well in Southern California too, even down by the beach in Malibu. Yet, many of us believe that they would not grow here.

  7. Jeane says:

    What is the name of the one edged in pink (third picture)? it’s so pretty. All of mine are white or plain dusky lavender.

    1. Dave says:

      I’m sorry, I am horrible at record keeping so I don’t have a tag to identify it. Possibly Peppermint Ice, but I’m guessing.

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