Garden notes // Hellebores

It has been such a wonderful year for hellebores in our garden and as their season is coming to an end, I thought I'd jot down which varieties we have flowering, which new ones went in this year, which are thriving... and then I can throw away all of the post-its and plant labels because it shall be forever recorded on this little part of the interwebs!

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Hellebores (pronounced HELL-ee-BORES) are also called winter roses or lenten roses, and all these names are used interchangeably. They are a winter flowering plant, and do really well in climates that have a properly cold winter like ours in the southern tablelands of NSW. My mum (in Sydney) has not had any luck with hellebores, but she panicked a bit when they died off in summer and pulled them out - DON'T DO THAT! They will die back a bit, just leave them and see what comes when the weather cools down again. It is usually suggested that hellebores are a shade-loving or part-shade loving plant, but ours have been in an exposed position for the past two summers and have survived and thrived... in saying that, some of my more fragile and rarer varieties haven't had a summer yet, so we will see how they fare. The position that they are in will eventually be a full-shade garden in summer as they are under deciduous trees, but those little saplings need a few more years under their belts before they provide proper summer shade for my flowers.

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This morning I popped out and picked a few of every type of hellebore that is currently in flower in the garden. Although we have had a few others flower briefly before now too, this is a pretty good representation of the mature plants. So far the only flowering ones are in our top and middle terrace beds... I have also planted a lot of teeny tiny plants in another bed, but they won't flower before next year at the earliest.

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Above are (to the best of my recollection and/or post-it reference and not in an exact order but roughly in colour order from left to right):

H. niger ('Double forms') - double white flowers 

H. niger ('Lucky dip') - white to very pale pink, some form doubles and some single flowers (hence 'lucky dip')

H. x hybridus ('Primrose yellow gold nectaries') - single yellow flowers

H. ballardiae ('Cinnamon snow') - single flowers that start creamy white but streak with rose and age to green

H. ballardiae ('Pink frost') - single pale pink flowers

H. x hybridus ('Penny's pink) - single dark pink flowers

H. x hybridus ('Anna's red') - single deep claret flowers

Each of these hellebores has a different clumping form with lots of variation in the foliage too, so they definitely don't get boring. Oh, and as an added bonus many varieties are self-seeding and will spread if allowed to (free plants!). And all varieties can be divided, so again free plants

If you are thinking of planting hellebores, I really recommend that you get them through Post Office Farm Nursery. It's a hellebore breeding specialist nursery that does mail order, and they truly do have the best varieties. In saying that, the nurseries in Canberra sell some great hellebores, so they are worth a look too.

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I won't get carried away with care tips here as they are pretty low maintenance. But one thing I learnt this year - definitely cut the thicker clumping varieties back a bit to allow air into them... Our Cinnamon snow and Pink frost varieties in particular have been overwhelming full of flowers and foliage, and it helped a lot to cut the flowers and keep the foliage to a minimum.

Just for my own reference, the other varieties that I planted this year and can't wait to see flower next year (fingers' crossed) are:

H. hybridus - 'Apricot-peach spotted'; 'Double bicolour'; 'Double green purple bicolour'; 'Double picot'; 'Double white'; 'Picotee'; 'Double rose pink'

H. foetidus 'Siena'

H. augutifolius 'Pacific frost'

H. niger 'Large flowered form'

Yup, I'm a bit hellebore-nutty! I'm sad that they are almost done for the year, but bring on the peonies, roses, sweet peas, irises, hydrangeas, oh my! So much floral goodness to look forward to!

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