Sunday, 9 January 2011

Helleborus, 5 months of pleasure

With a bit of luck Helleborus niger (Christmas rose), the first of the Helleborus to flower, makes its appearance at the end of November, definitely by Christmas and will continue to please to the end of April.

Most of the Helleborus are very suited to the alkaline soil that we have in our area. The following are a few facts and tips on how to grow them successfully.

Broadly speaking you can divide the Helleborus into four groups:
1. Neutral to alkaline soil in dappled shade.
2. Heavy, neutral to alkaline soil in dappled shade.
3. Neutral to alkaline soil in full sun or dappled shade.
4. Any soil, but preferably acid, in partial shade.
Helleborus purpurascens in not really suited to our area as it like acid soil.

Plant them under decidious trees, they'll receive light in winter and are protected from the fierce sun in summer.
Leave 40 - 60 cm between plants.
Plant them in groups of 3, 5 or 7.
Once planted leave them in their spot, they hate being moved.
If you leave the seedheads on the plant, they will seed themselves, small plants will appear around the mother plant.

A few Helleborus to recommend:

Helleborus niger (Christmas Rose), native to the Alps, flowers from December through April.

Helleborus 'Ruby Glow', hybrid of Helleborus niger and Helleborus sternii, flowers from half December through April. The foliage of H. Ruby Glow is as decorative as the flower.

Helleborus sternii, a hybrid of Helleborus argutifolius and Helleborus lividus, flowers from January through April. Foliage is marbled and ash green in colour.

Helleborus argutifolius was previously known under the name Helleborus corsicus. Originally from Corsica and Sardinia. Grows to 1 m in height, very easy plant, suits conditions outlined in group 1, 2 and 3.

Helleborus 'Blue Lady' is a Helleborus orientalis variety, flowers from mid January through April.

Helleborus 'Double Picotee', a Helleborus orientalis hybrid, developed by Pepiniere Sandrine & Thierry Delabroye in Hantay (N. France), tel no. 0320497398. They have a wonderful collection of Helleborus.

Bibliography: RHS A-Z Encyclopedia and Rustica

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