Plant of the month February: Helleborus
The Helleborus are my favorite perennials in the garden. There are now just over 100 different varieties and I am not getting tired of looking for particularly attractive flower colors and shapes. When the garden remains in the winter dormancy and from december onwards the individual varieties gradually push their blossoms – regardless of the weather – it is a bit magical. And when spring roses start in February / March, that’s a spring promise. It is not without reason that the internationally known german breeder Josef Heuger has named his spring spring helleborus series Spring PromiseÓ.
The hellebori belongs to the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), which also includes the wood vine (Clematis), the larkspur (Delphinium) or the globeflower (Trollius).
The genus helleborus with about 20 species is limited in its distribution to the northern hemisphere with Europe and Asia.
The largest concentration of species of helleborus is found around the Mediterranean area but various species are also found on the coasts of the Black Sea.
For the home garden, three groups have currently emerged and have proven very successful:
Christmas rose (Helleborus niger):
- bright white flowers
- Varieties with different flowering times
- early varieties bloom in November
- thrive in the garden in locations where they are protected from the midday sun in summer
Snow rose (from hybrids with Helleborus niger):
- white, greenish, pink or purple flowers
- Flowering period from November to April
- thrive in the garden in sunny places
Lenzrose (Helleborus Hybridus)
- particularly large variety of flower colors
- diverse flower shapes
- Flowering from January to May
- thrive in the garden in shady to partially shaded locations
The various popular names for helleborus, such as christmas rose, snow rose, spring rose, oracle flower, devil’s herb or hellebore indicate a long mythological tradition. The origin of these names is based in part either on a scientific phenomenon or on historical traditions.
helleborus species are very popular for the garden, especially because of their special flowering period in winter and spring. If most of the other plants are still in hibernation, they make their grand entrance in the garden. The first christmas roses start to show their pure white flowers from the end of October. The pink and cream-colored snow roses start to bloom in December and the colorful spring roses follow between February and April.
They are best used with early flowering plant partners. During the summer, most helleborus varieties with their large, leather-like leaves appear as attractive ornamental leaves.
Christmas roses and spring roses love semi-shady to shady planting places and are therefore well suited for planting under trees & shrubs. The snow roses can cope well in the garden with a sunny location. Christmas roses in the garden are easy to care for, prefer nutrient-rich and calcareous soils, but like snow lilies and spring roses can also be found in other locations as long as the soil is not prone to waterlogging.
Very light and sandy soils can be improved by incorporating some bark humus, a little dolomite lime and horn shavings. Crushed egg shells can also be used instead of dolomite lime.
Perennials, bulbs and shrubs that are not too wide-spread and like helleborus, are not a nuisance to their neighbors as permanent companions in the garden.
In our garden we have combined most helleborus with finer, special shrubs and early flowering bulbs.
Examples of woody plants in our garden: snowball, march cherry, magnificent spars, dogwood, ornamental apple, Judas tree, ..
For the spring bulbs, we chose crocuses, anemones, liverflowers, snowdrops and march cups.
However, there is no limit to the design imagination. They go well with clumpy ferns as well as filigree grasses.
Christmas, snow and spring roses are easy to care for, winter hardy, resistant and will give you years of pleasure.
Intensive breeding work – especially in the past two decades – has created homogeneous and healthy new crosses that inspire in diverse flower variations. For us, an indispensable design perennial in the garden.
Sources: www.helleborus.de / bruchergarten