Hellebore Combinations

How to create a harmonious tapestry of early-season color.

By Graham Rice

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A variety of helleborus from Graham RiceHellebores are quintessential early-season perennials. The variety of colors now available allows us to choose exactly the ones we like best and then pick other plants to group with them in harmonious combinations.

Dark and sultry varieties, like this one from the Brandywine Series (hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 5), are especially tempting and are lovely with snowdrops or with pale blue pulmonarias. But in my Pennsylvania garden, I decided to choose companion plants in the same color range.

First that rich purple barrenwort. This one is Epimedium ‘Eco Violet Princess’ (Zone 3), but the easier-to-find ‘Purple Prince’ or the slightly rosier ‘Pierre’s Purple’ (both Zone 3) would also work well. The delicate, dainty flowers open in arching sprays below those of the hellebores, and their contrast in form, as well as their harmony in coloring, works very well.

Then lower down (center left in this photo) is an annual viola bought in bloom from a local nursery and slipped in where there was a little space. This one is ‘Gem Antique Pink’, but you can choose the shade from what’s available in your area.

Also tucked in there is the native Trillium luteum (Zone 5), although when its yellow flowers open they will not really be the right shade, and in front there’s an unusual variety of the lovely delicate wood anemone, Anemone nemorosa. This one is ‘Bracteata Pleniflora’ (Zone 4), with pretty ruffs of dissected green leaves around starry white flowers.

These are all happy in light shade or an area that gets sun for just a few hours a day. They enjoy any good soil that’s neither soggy nor parched. Working humus into the soil before planting and an annual mulch with leaf mold or weed-free compost will keep them healthy.

Helleborus Brandywine Helleborus Epimedium Eco Violet Princess Helleborus Viola Gem Antique Pink
Helleborus Brandywine Epimedium ‘Eco Violet Princess’ Viola ‘Gem Antique Pink’

 

Photos: © Gardenphotos.com

Graham Rice @ Organic Gardening

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