In praise of Hellebores

The days are slowly getting longer and we are all looking for signs of Spring in the garden. Evidence of Snowdrops and Crocus are showing themselves and its usually the time we look out onto a bleak scene and regret not buying more bulbs in September.

Well, all is not lost. Now is the best time to go in search for the best Hellebores.

Helleborus x hybridus is an understated beauty whose flowers last for weeks and creates a neat evergreen mound of leaves throughout the year. It is also extremely promiscuous, and will set seed easily if the flowers are left .

Each plant varies from its sister, so it is much better to buy them in flower, when you can choose your favourite. There are so many variations too. From the deepest red to pure white, some with spotted petals or double flowers.

Ashwoods ( www.ashwoodnurseries.com) sell a huge range and have a very informative website. They have developed a range of Ashwoods Garden Hybrids which are particularly beautiful.

Hellebore x hybrids flower from late January but the flowers will stay on the plant once faded and often develop large seed heads.

They are easy to grow prefering rich moisture retentive soil. They do need good drainage as they are ‘snow melt’ plants. Growing them on a slope or raised bed is a good way to ensure good natural drainage.

They will grow well in part shade, under deciduous shrubs and trees. They do not like full sun in the summer.

They will grow into large clumps over a few years and dislike being disturbed

An annual mulch of mushroom compost will encourage flowering but avoid covering the crown too deeply as it may cause bud rot.

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