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  • Writer's pictureDebi Holland

Fagus Times Hellebores

Heavenly hellebores will soon be back blooming in gardens but these cup-shaped beauties have a peppered past. Derived from the Greek word Helleborus, which means ‘injure food,’ they were commonly used as a poison!

Legend has it that Hellebores, also known as Lenten rose or the ‘Christmas rose’ grew from the tears of a young shepherdess called Madelon who had no gift for the newborn baby Jesus in Bethlehem.

Hellebores are in fact not roses but part of the buttercup family. They thrive in part shade, well-drained, moist conditions. Happy in most soil types but lean towards alkaline, they range in colour from white through to purple with single, double, speckled or picotee dark-edged petals.

Helleborus orientalis, H.niger, H. x hybridus, H.viridis, H. argutifolius and of course stinking hellebore, H. foetidus are all commonly found in gardens. These evergreen perennials are a great source of nectar for early emerging bees and good news, deer and rabbits tend to avoid them!

A study carried out by Bristol University showed that one Helleborus x hybridus flower had the equivalent nectar to a staggering 157 snowdrops illustrating the importance of this humble hellebore in the winter garden.

Hellebores are low maintenance and stress-free but they can be susceptible to Hellebore leaf spot, caused by the fungus Microsphaeropsis hellebori, which can cause brown spots on stems, flowers and leaves. Remove any affected material.

As new growth appears towards Christmas, cut back all the old leathery leaves, as this will expose the beautiful new blooms.

Hellebores easily self-seed so don’t be surprised if you discover lots of hellebore babies around your mother plant. Borders can get quickly over crowded so dig up the plantlets and pot on for friends or your local charity plant sale.

Toxic if eaten so wear gloves and ensure pets don’t nibble.

Celebrate the festive season with early flowering Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Carol.’ Beautiful white blooms flower from December to February, height a petite 30cm so perfect for a pot.

All photos © Debi Holland 2021


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