Hellebores Are OK With Me

It took me a while to warm up to Hellebores. These days I don’t love them, but I do like them pretty much.


At first, I did not want to plant Hellebores because they were not native to North America (I favor natives, though not exclusively), and they seemed to have very limited wildlife value.

My Hellebore resistance began to break down when Judy asked me why we didn’t have any. If Judy wants a given plant, I will generally incorporate some into the garden, provided that it is well-adapted to our conditions.

DSC_0753This was a conversation that we had frequently enough that our older son, at about age 12, came up with his own parody of it, which he would perform as a one man show:

Danny/Voice 1: How come we don’t have any Purple Wombat Flowers?

Danny/Voice 2: I didn’t think you liked Purple Wombat Flowers.

Danny/Voice 1: I love Purple Wombat Flowers!

And so on.

DSC_0752So anyhow, I eventually bought some Hellebores about two years before last fall. I wasn’t very careful noting the species, but I believe they were all Helleborus x hybridus or Helleborus orientalis. I used them to plant one edge of the Back Garden Island Bed and another rather difficult shady spot.

Hellebore blooming in late March.

Gradually, I came to appreciate their good points. For instance, they flower over a very long period starting in early spring. The flowers do look a bit like roses in purple Β or white with purple freckles, hence the common name “Lenten Rose”. (Though they do have an annoying habit of facing downwards.)

DSC_0726They are tough plants that tolerate shade and somewhat dry soil, and require very little attention.

They form a low-growing mass of handsome, shiny green leaves. And because Hellebores are toxic, they are left undisturbed by rabbits and other critters.

And I may have been hasty in assuming Hellebores have no wildlife value. As an early spring bloomer, they provide forage to those bees that emerge while flowers are still scarce.

DSC_0743So I will never be a Hellebore aficionado. I don’t think I will ever swoon over a blooming mass of Hellebores the way might over, say, Tulips. And I will never obsess over the many Hellebore species and varieties. But they are worthy and attractive plants, and I’m happy to have them in the garden.

Now if only I can find some Purple Wombat Flowers.


36 Comments on “Hellebores Are OK With Me”

  1. I adore my Hellebores. They flower much earlier here than they do for you there in Chicago, and we do have some with more upward facing flowers. The Dunn Garden here in Seattle has a swath of black Hellebore flowers that is very impressive.

  2. I only really began to notice Hellebores when I started reading gardening blogs, and saw lots of close up photos. They can be so easily overlooked in a garden, perhaps because many of them face down in the garden beds.

  3. I love hellebores and would like to have dozens of them. My yard is mostly shady, and I like having lots of evergreen plants. In Richmond VA, hellebores give me year-round foliage and beauty in the shade, plus blooms in winter.

  4. In or neck of the woods, hellebores start blooming in the winter when little else is happening in our gardens. If they didn’t bloom until tulip and daffodil time, I might not be as fond of them as I am. Some have really handsome evergreen foliage (check out helleborus multifidus subsp. hercegovinus) Just about anything that is evergreen gets my vote.
    Good luck on your purple wombat flower quest!

  5. I’ve never understood why so many gardeners swoon over Hellebores but, like you, I have come to appreciate their good points. By the way, I have found several that manage to hold their heads up proudly…that helps.

  6. I became enthused with Hellebores after seeing them in many British gardens (online, unfortunately, not in person). Now that I’m restoring the garden beds, I’m planning to incorporate them. They are pricey, though, but just this week a lovely lady that I volunteer with offered me some “extras”. Don’t have to ask me twice!

  7. I agree with you on all accounts. But also the flowers are such a wonderful sight in spring peeping out of the snow! Mine are all late flowerers, so any frost damage to buds is usually minimal. And I cut off any ugly leaves to improve the view of the flowers too. πŸ™‚

  8. I love hellebores and have them in several places in my garden, especially in the shade. After several years when they mature, the drop seeds and the resulting “helleborelets” make great pass-along plants. For those who like flower arranging, the cut ends of hellebore should be singed (I use a candle usually) and then the latex in their stems doesn’t leak out.

  9. I love their foliage too, which is now tall and robust and will keep the dry shady areas clothed in green until next February. I admit that I adore their flowers – I started with 2 unnamed varieties and now have hundreds with variations in color – my early bees appreciate them too.

  10. Hellebores are among my favorites for the various reasons all have already pointed out. I feel a bit guilty, however, as I am trying hard to stick with native plants that nourish our native species with their nectar or habitat.

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