Hellebores are low-maintenance, cold-hardy beauties
Hellebores make long-lasting flowers for eye-catching bouquets. (Courtesy The Gardener's Workshop/MCT)
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — Almost two decades ago, Cheryl Turner decided to spruce up her yard, specifically an east-facing back yard with trees.
“I began researching shade garden plants and fell in love with Hellebores,” she says.
“They bloom when nothing else is blooming, and brighten up a winter garden.”
Hellebores are forgiving plants, says Cheryl, who gardens in southeastern Virginia.
Once established, they require minimum maintenance —just trim back the earlier year’s growth so the new blooms can emerge and be seen and enjoyed.
The best tip, she says, is to make sure the plants are watered regularly when they are first planted. Then sit back and enjoy the annual show, which often begins with early bloomers like Jacob in December.
The genus Helleborus includes several cultivars, the most common being Helleborus orientalis, nicknamed Lenten rose, which is cold hardy in Zones 3-8.
Hellebores are cold-hardy beauties for several reasons —deer and voles do not like them. They tend to dislike being transplanted, so place them where you want them and leave them be.
They also give you dozens, sometimes more, new plants because they reseed and spread.
“Hellebores are the most fabulous dry shade ground cover —ever!” says Liza Ziegler of The Gardener’s Workshop — www.shoptgw.com, an online gardening shop based in Hampton Roads. Her fields are a cut-flower farm that provides bouquets — including Hellebores — to local florists and specialty food stores.
“Planted at the base of large trees that suck the life out of others, Hellebores seem to shine. They are evergreens that bloom in winter, last till June or so and deer don’t eat them — what’s not to love?”
When planted in organic-rich soil in the fall, the plants need little care, Lisa advises. Planted in early spring, they need supplemental watering to get established.
“It takes up to two years to get a 6-inch plant, which makes them pricey. It takes time to grow them into the half-gallon pot that you purchase for $20.”
Lisa says her entire Hellebores collection, which numbers in the dozens, started with three plants she purchased in 1991.
“Most folks cut them too early to have a long-lasting cut flower,” she says.
“We cut the stem at ground level and place it in fresh cut-flower food. They last two to four weeks in the vase at this stage.”
Does cold weather in less-temperate places impact the flowers?
Pine Knot Farms, which grows and sells Hellebores year-round in Clarksville, Va., says yes but some protection can work wonders. Severe cold can turn blooms or whole stems black, but keeping a supply of chopped leaves handy to quickly cover them can work wonders when the temperatures dip below 10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Learn far more about these winter wonders at www.pineknotfarms.com or call 434-252-1990.