The Hellebores Story!

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Why it's called the "Christmas Rose", and much, much more!

Helleborus niger, or Christmas Rose, acquired this name from the legend of Madeline, a poor young shepherd girl in Bethlehem, who after hearing of the birth of the Holy Infant wanted to worship him but had nothing to offer. Madeline desperately searched the frozen hills for a flower to give the Baby Jesus. Defeated, she stood outside the stable and wept. As her tears fell, a rose-like flower sprouted from the snowy ground beneath her feet. This flower, Helleborus niger, was a gift made from pure love, better than gold, frankincense or myrrh. She delivered this flower to the Holy Infant.

The Lenten Rose (Helleborus orientalis) is well known for its colorful hybrids (Hellebores x hybridus) which are the most popular for keen gardeners. There is a small display in our Garden to the left of the plaza. Flowers of pink, white, cream, and purple are beginning to pop their heads above the ground to be followed by shiny palmate leaves.

Although most gardeners are infatuated with the H. x hybridus, there are several other species and hybrids that are equally as lovely.

Helleborus argutifolius exhibits large toothy foliage growing to 2 feet with lime-green steams and cream flowers that light the winters’ gloom. Check them out growing and seeding profusely around a bench at the far end of the Perennial Garden.

Walking the North trail through the Perennial Garden, behold a real show stopper, H. x sternii ‘Boughton Beauty’. It combines the bold foliage of H. argutifolius which, in this case, is an unusual marbled bluish-green with H. lividus and its compact blush red flowers and chartreuse interiors supported on a stalk of dusty rose purple. What an incredible combination and best of all it re-seeds true.  We can’t wait to have a mass of this beauty!

The tallest of all is Helleborus foetidus displaying distinct dissected palmate leaves with drooping clusters of small, chartreuse, bell-shaped flowers, often edged with maroon.  

All of the Hellebores mentioned grow exceedingly well in the Gardens. Planted in a sun to part shade location with yearly additions of compost or well rotted manure, protected from drying winds ensures years of pleasure and rewards of profuse seedlings. Best of all, these darlings are deer proof!