Friday, June 13, 2008


One of the most interesting and popular plants for Winter colour is the Heleborus or Lenton Rose.

The most commonly growing one is Helibrium Orientalis, the Lenton Rose.

It is a native of NE Greece, European Turkey, and Soviet Georgia at up to 2200m altitude.

It's natural habitat is in scrub and at the edges of woods and forests. There are a number of variations which are often found in the wild.

In recent years both in New Zealand and overseas plant breeding programmes have created new and named cultures of beautiful plants.

Flowering in later in Winter they send upright stems up through the old leaves. The slightly nodding flowers open to show beautiful markings and interesting stamen patterns.

They set seed rapidly and the bet way to gather them is to let the seed fall to the ground and germinate beside the parent plant. You can shift the young plants the next year.

Winter rose

Winter roses (hellebores) bring a delicate splash of colour when there is not much else in bloom. They look wonderful planted en masse under trees for a wintry woodland effect, and will flower from June until November.

They are notable for their nodding flowers and unusually delicate colours; perhaps the most familiar is Helleborus orientalis. But there are others with interesting flowers and leaves, such as the tender H. lividus, which has green flowers streaked with purple. Plant-breeding programmes here and overseas have produced new cultures of beautiful plants.

They set seed rapidly and the best way to gather them is to let the seed fall to the ground and germinate beside the parent plant. You can move the young plants the following year. (Note: all parts of the plant are poisonous.)


As well as for their most welcome late-winter or very-early-spring flowers, hellebores are rapidly gaining in popularity among discerning gardeners for their handsome, mostly evergreen foliage.

Hellebores bloom in winter and early spring when cool days keep flowers fresh over an extended period. The inconspicuous petals and stamens drop as the temperatures rise, but the sepals that form the bell remain attractive into late spring. The softly colored bells are either green, white or various shades of dark red to plum. Some have spots inside the bells and others are rimmed in maroon. All are borne above leathery foliage on plants 60cm high.

Hellebores thrive in lightly or partly shaded places, where the soil has been thoroughly prepared with an abundance of organic material. Because the roots resent disturbance, prepare soil thoroughly with an plenty of organic material before planting in spring or autumn. Maintain high fertility with an annual dressing of compost or well-rotted manure each fall and a light spring application of fertilizer. Cut back any leaves damaged by winter weather. New foliage will appear. Deep, frequent watering is necessary in dry weather.

If you must divide the plants to build stock, this is best done just after flowering, but otherwise do not disturb them. H. orientalis, in particular, hybridizes and self-seeds quite freely; it is fun to grow seedlings on your own, but only fresh seeds will germinate readily.

All parts of hellebores are poisonous to humans and animals.

Helleborus orientalis (Lenten rose) is easier to grow than H. niger and usually blooms a little later, with small clusters of cup-shaped, nodding flowers ranging from white, often speckled with maroon, to pale green, through pink to purple. Growing to 60cm tall, it is hardy and is not heat-tolerant.

Helleborus argutifolius [H. corsicus] (spiny-toothed hellebore) has nodding clusters of pale green bells above spiny-edged dark leathery leaves. These coarse-textured plants are bulky and grow to 60cm tall. They are short-lived but often self-seed.

Helleborus foetidus (stinking hellebore) is similar to H. argutifolius in height and shape. The green flowers have maroon rims and the dark leaves are divided into long narrow leaflets. Both species bloom in late winter or spring.

Helleborus niger (Christmas rose), somewhat temperamental, is the best known species. It has cup-shaped, nodding flowers opening pure white and turning blush pink, blooming in late winter to early spring. The dark foliage is evergreen, and the plant grows to 20 - 30cm high.

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