Robin Trott, University of Minnesota Extension Educator
Lasts month's article highlighted the wonderful Christmas Rose (Helleborus
niger ). Selected varieties within this species have a similarly constructed inflorescence, bloom ivory to clear white fading to rose and green in maturity, and have slightly different bloom times.
If you're looking for an early spring bloom that is colorful, consider hybrid hellebores. Here are a few colored varieties, hardy to zone 4, that you might like to try in you perennial garden.
(H. x hybridus: 15-18" tall, 24" wide) has leathery, semi-evergreen foliage with large double flowers in shades of white, yellow, red, pink and purple (see Photo 1). This early bloomer prefers partial to full shade and is recommended for use as an accent plant, or planted in large drifts in your shade garden.
(H. x hybridus: 15-18" tall, 24" wide) is also a semi-evergreen plant. Its greenish white flowers have pink/red veining, and each petal is edged a dark red (See Photo 2). Picotee Lady makes a great cut for floral arrangements. Preferring partial - full shade, this hellebore thrives in shade beds and borders, and woodland gardens.
(H. 'Walhelivor':12-18" tall, 24" wide) has blue/green, shrub-like foliage. The abundant ivory blossoms have a pink/chartreuse blush and green veining (See Photo 3). Blooming in very early spring, this plant prefers moist, well-drained soil; water generously for your best bloom. This compact hellebore is divine in containers and in shade borders.
Winter Jewels Series
The Winter Jewels Series has a spectacular display of color. This series is the Orientalis variety (Helleborus x hybridus), also known as Lenten rose. These cultivars have large, nodding blossoms which come in a wide range of colors, and the foliage is deer resistant! Use Winter Jewels to brighten up your shady nooks and add color and texture to your woodland and rock gardens. H. x hybridus generally doesn't bloom the first year, but they are so stunning, that they are worth the wait.
WJ Apricot Blush: (20" tall, 24" wide) Blossoms in shades white, blushed with rosy apricot. Medium green foliage (Photo 6).
WJ Black Diamond: (15-18" tall, 22" wide) Purple foliage matures to green. Blooms are nearly black, tinted slate, burgundy and red. These are spectacular paired with bright yellows and greens (Photo 7).
WJ Painted: (18-22" tall, 24" wide) Medium-dark green foliage brightened by white blossoms painted with burgundy (Photo 8).
Plant all Hellebores in humus-rich, well-drained soil, and water regularly. Protect them from harsh winter conditions. Plant in a protected location and cover with mulch once the ground has frozen to avoid winter kill. Remove the dead leaves in the spring.
Hellebores are reliably cold hardy season starters that are good in containers, shade gardens, woodland gardens and rock gardens. They maintain their green foliage late into the season, and are virtually deer resistant. If you are interested in trying these versatile perennials in your shade beds next spring, contact your local nursery or garden center for availability.