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Helleborus orientalis for wondrous winter blooms through the snow

Not your everyday garden plant, helleborus varieties
Not your everyday garden plant, helleborus varieties
Photo by Clemens Bilan/Getty Images

The Lenten or Christmas rose is a perennial evergreen with attractive, whorled foliage, often producing first blooms while snow is still on the ground. The first occasion of warmth in late winter initiates budding and later bestows a variety of long-lasting blooms, presenting a welcome show in the dreary winter landscape.

Ornamental Blooms

Helleborus orientalis and Helleborus niger have produced many cultivars. These deliver a variety of long-lasting color in the late winter. Extremely ornamental; blooms may be white, mauve or purple, fading to an attractive green before ending the show in late spring.

The Hellebore is hardy in USDA Zones 5-9 and prefers an area of shade, light shade or dappled sun for best bloom results. In warmer zones the Lenten rose prefers deep shade; while in colder areas, this charming old-world plant can take more sunshine.

Propagate from Seed or Division

Helebores are adaptable to a variety of soils as long as they are well-drained. Add well-composted organic material to the bed before planting. This breath-taking specimen responds well to light, organic fertilization.

Hellebores may be planted in containers, drifts or masses. They can be coupled with ground hugging crocus to expand the late winter show of color. The Lenten rose resides happily when planted beneath deciduous trees. Use it in outlying areas, where other plants may not survive browsing deer. It is not appealing to them and is said to work as a repellant.

Plant or divide this striking specimen in spring after blooming or in fall, to enjoy beautiful blossoms during winter's chill. Most varieties self-seed readily; make sure there is room for them to expand in the bed. Seeds may also be collected for planting in other shady areas.

Native to Greece and Asia Minor, planting of the Hellebore was recorded in English gardens as early as the 17th century. The plant has enjoyed resurgence in popularity in the US in recent years and is great for adding color to the often barren winter landscape.Find plants at high end nurseries and online.

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