Spring Flower Feature: Hellebores

A cure for winter blues, hellebores are an early gift from spring. The dark and cold can hold us captive until we witness a fresh bloom emerging from the soil. The promise of newness, of energy and hope, it fills up our cups as we cast off our winter coats. Hellebores (Helleborus) are some of the first flowers to blossom, peeling back their petals in late winter and early spring – sometimes even before the snow melts away.

Specialty plant collectors and haughty gardeners used to be the ones with the most access to the “roses of winter”; their expensive price tags not exactly welcoming to the greenhorns of plant parenting. It takes 3-5 years for growers to bring their hellebores to full bloom, justifying their $30 price tags. Save money; invest in an initial cluster of hellebores and propagate them by letting them go to seed. They will self-seed if they’re in their happy place.  

Throughout the last couple decades, the hellebore has evolved into a flower that comes in countless colors, forms and patterning, and they are also larger and healthier. Picotee edges are available as well, with the very edges of the flower being a different color than the rest of the bloom. These flowers can have different numbers of petals. They come in single, double, and star-shaped flowers, and even an anemone-flowered form. These varieties are possible because of new ways of dividing and pollinating, and the incorporation of tissue culture (growing single cells in a petri dish). Gardeners everywhere are going bananas over the endless options of blooms materializing in their neighbors’ landscapes. 

These flowers don’t require much. (Beginners, rejoice!) Establish them in rich, moist, well-draining soil with partial shade, and they’ll flourish for years to come. Once they bloom, they will continue to show their captivating interiors for a couple months! They’re native to central and south Europe, and one variety is even found far to the East, in China. Accustomed to limestone bedrock as well as calcium and humus-rich soils, these plants are quite tough. If you live in zones 4-9, these rose-like flowers will bless your retinas with their grace and strength. 

Shade is notoriously difficult to grow happy plants in, but luckily for us, hellebores thrive in shade. Enjoy their evergreen tendencies throughout all four seasons. Rather than facing the sky, they tend to nod downward to protect their reproductive parts (stamens and pistils). If you plant them on a slope, raised bed, or outside your favorite window, their blooms will be more visible. The insides of the flowers are often more vivid and eye-catching anyway! They grow in a cluster, tall and willowy, emphasizing their striking blooms. 

If you plant them on a slope or raised bed, their blooms will be more visible. The insides of the flowers are often more vivid and eye-catching anyway! You can also place them next to your front door or outside a favorite window so their early spring blooms catch the eye and warm the heart.

No wonder they are our spring favorite. Cheers to a new season, in all its complexities. 

Until next thyme,
My Thyme Gardens

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