Gone to Hellebores–These flowers are harbingers of spring
Just when you desperately need spring, hellebores burst on the scene.
Go beyond all those images of itty bitty bulbs when you think of spring’s first floral encounters because hellebores are anything but subtle. Rivaling any other harbinger for spring bling, hellebores produce big, beefy blossoms in truly seductive shades. If you thought tulips and daffodils are the only blossoms capable of sending you into attacks of spring fever, you’ve never encountered a hellebore. Brace yourself, because this perennial is about to change April forever.
Bodacious by anybody’s standards, hellebores outperform and upstage the minor bulbs by a long shot. Bearing flowers that are mesmerizingly complex when studied close up, even from a distance, we’re talking noteworthy. The moment snow melts, precocious Helleborus orientalis (alias Lenten rose) and its hybrids waste no time swelling buds into full pop. Envision flowers with colors spanning a range from cream to nearly black with lots of forays into apple blossom pink and maroon coloration spangled by streaks and speckles in the mix and you’ve got a fair sampling of the feats hellebores perform. Plus, they are custom crafted for our climate. Hardy to Zone 4, the Lenten rose laughs at the cold.
The good news is that headquarters for hellebores is right here. Tom Scott of Falls Village Flower Farm has labored long and hard to become the region’s premiere source on purpose. Ask Scott how he happened on hellebores, and he’ll explain that he got into the hellebore game by popular demand. When he took the plunge into growing in 1997, Scott wisely surveyed local landscape designers for input from their wish lists. Hellebores won hands down. Over the years, he has divided, multiplied, and planted seedlings until his Falls Village yard is sprinkled with hellebores frolicking between many other perennials from his nursery. Focusing on single-flowering Lenten roses that please pollinators rather than doubles, his field bristles with flowers. In early spring, the display is enough to cause palpitations for anyone.
Hellebores tend to be pricey perennials, but their upscale price tag reflects the startup time necessary to produce a flowering plant. Three to five years will elapse from seed to blooming, so you’re paying for the patience and nursery space of the grower. But naturally, you’ll want to protect your investment. How do you play the good host to your little spring prima donna? First of all, hellebores are incredibly adaptable plants. If you want to enjoy your hellebore in a container rather than immediately planting it in the garden, hellebores work wonderfully as potted plants. Keep in mind that the root systems are generous and thirsty. You’ll need to furnish a deep container and be forthcoming with the watering can, but you can expect plenty of thrill for compensation.
When planting in the garden, find a location that is moist but well-drained and fertile. That said, hellebores tolerate poor soil, but might not perform optimally if not well-fed. They dote on partial shade, especially from deciduous trees that furnish filtered sunbeams in spring when they’re high prime.