Hellebore

Helleborus x hybridis

By Therese Ciesinski

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Why grow it: Flowers. In winter. Single and double flowers in shades of red, pink, white, green, purple, and yellow, in glorious bloom at the coldest, most dismal time of the year. And the flowers stick around for two months. Need I say more? Okay, how's this: They're shade lovers. Deer don't eat them. Their evergreen leaves are glossy and don't tatter in winter. As hellebore-happy Britain can attest, it's a short jump from buying your first plant to becoming a lifetime member of Helleborus Anonymous.

Vital statistics: There are about 15 species of hellebore, and hundreds of varieties. Lenten rose, Christmas rose (H. niger), and bearsfoot hellebore (H. foetidus) are three you're likely to find at garden centers and in catalogs. Lenten rose can be grown in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 4 to 9.

What it needs: One of the easiest hellebores to grow, Lenten rose requires only a shady site, well-drained soil, and an occasional watering in dry times. It blooms best in fertile soil; topdress with compost or, when you see new growth in late winter, apply an organic fertilizer. The compounds that make hellebores unpalatable to deer can also cause mild skin irritation, so wear gloves when handling.

Sources
Heronswood, 360-297-4172
Munchkin Nursery, 812-633-4858
Pine Knot Farms, 434-252-1990

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