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.
This 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.
So 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.
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 or white with purple freckles, hence the common name “Lenten Rose”. (Though they do have an annoying habit of facing downwards.)
They 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.
So 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.