Hellebores are greatly underrated perennial plants, some of which are evergreen, with showy flowers in the winter and early spring before most of the other perennials have even come into growth. Perhaps the best known of the hellebores is Helleborus niger, better known as the ‘Christmas Rose’. These are evergreen with divided, deep green leaves and nodding, white flowers with golden stamens. As the name suggest they can be in flower for Christmas but in most years the flowers last well into the New Year. By March the later flowering Helleborus x hybridus or ‘Lenten Rose’ will be taking centre stage with their cup-shaped, white, pink or purple flowers many of which have attractive, spotted patterns on the inside of the petals. Other Hellebores such as H. corsicus and H. foetidus have divided, spiny, dark green leaves and pale green flowers carried in large clusters in late winter and early spring.
Hellebores in general prefer semi-shade and a moisture retentive soil and are therefore ideal for edge of woodland or around the base of shrubs. As flower buds develop in the winter, old, blackened leaves need to be removed to allow the flowers to be seen at their best. Just remember though that all parts of the plant may cause severe discomfort if ingested and that the sap may irritate skin. However don’t let this put you off as every garden should have a place for at least one variety of the hard-working Hellebore.