The early hellebores

Certainly, local gardeners must be thrilled by recent mild temperatures that followed December’s severe chill. I am overjoyed.

For several days in December, broadleaf evergreens curled for protection in the cold, and while no damage is apparent in this garden, I repeatedly hear reports of plant losses locally. Somewhat by accident, a handful of tender plants in the garden were subjected to nights of six and seven degrees (Fahrenheit) without protection as the forecast was revised several degrees colder in late afternoon. Fortunately,  plants rebounded quickly, so I now have increased confidence in their cold hardiness.

With considerably milder temperatures, what a joy to be in the garden this evening with color showing on snowdrops (above) and daffodils pushing through piles of leaves that will remain until decaying in early summer. While several hellebores (Helleborus niger, below) have flowered since the middle of December, others have joined in bloom with dozens more soon to flower.

If my cold averse wife had a say there would be no need for flowers before April, when she ventures outdoors again, and I expect many gardeners spend little time in the garden in the chilly winter months. I must be out every evening as the sun sets behind our nearby mountains, and while evergreens become more prominent as Japanese maples, dogwoods, and redbuds are bare, I enjoy the blooms of mahonias, witch hazels, and hellebores immensely.

This double flowered hellebore is typically later blooming, and I note that its flowers are hidden beneath the canopy of leaves that should be removed.

Many of the first hellebores planted in the garden flower beginning in February, but more recent purchases are early and midwinter bloomers. As two and three year seedlings are transplanted from congested clumps it is possible the garden will one day be overpopulated with hellebores, but I will be happier with every addition until no spaces are available.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Valerie says:

    Oh my, I need to buy more Hellebores. Thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Dave says:

      I made a rough count of over a hundred large hellebores last spring, but I’d still like to add more early bloomers and more yellows.

  2. Beautiful! My hellebores are just showing buds and colors, other than the Christmas roses. And no bulb blooms yet, though I have some green shoots. Our neighbor has early yellow daffodils in full bloom!

    1. Dave says:

      No daffodil blooms for another month, but every week there will be more snowdrops and hellebores.

  3. The Aldie Gardener says:

    Dave, My backyard garden beds get afternoon sun. Will hellebores be able to survive that environment through the summer months?

    1. Dave says:

      Hellebores flower slightly better with more sun rather than deep shade, but they prefer a half day sun or a break from the late afternoon sun in summer. In full, blazing hot sun they will require more moisture, while in part sun they require no extra care.

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