January Tips & Advice
Every month we will recommend a plant that is looking especially good that month and for which it is the ideal time for planting. The plant highlighted in the calendar each month will be widely available in garden centres. We will recommend different varieties that you might like to try, together with simple planting and care hints and tips.
Hellebores herald the start of the New Year, with many varieties flowering in early January through to February providing the weather is favourable. They produce very attractive flowers and their deeply lobed leathery leaves create an attractive evergreen backdrop to spring flowering bulbs and flowers.
In recent years Hellebores have seen a resurgence in their use as garden plants. The breeding programmes have provided many new varieties and they have been transformed from single flowered forms in white, pinks and reds to singles in every shade, including white, almost black, uniformly speckled or splashed with darker markings. There are an increasing range of anemone centred forms and full doubles. Shapes now vary from beautifully and symmetrically rounded to dramatically star-shaped.
Hellebores are native to Southern and Central Europe and are found primarily in mountainous areas. However, they can survive in a range of habitats from light woodland shade to open alpine meadows. Hellebores can be planted in garden borders, providing that you prepare the ground beforehand by incorporating leaf mould and well rotted compost. This will provide the moisture and root run that Hellebores prefer. Alternatively, you can keep your Hellebore’s in their pot and bring them indoors and treat them as a houseplant. They make a lovely display in a conservatory during the late winter and early spring.
One of the most popular hellebores is Helleborus niger, the Christmas Rose. It is one of Britain’s oldest cultivated plants, believed to have been introduced by the Romans. It produces gently nodding flowers that open as early as January and can carry on until late April.
Hellebores can be used as elements in a more varied planting scheme. They can be surrounded with primroses, wood anemones, dicentras, and harmonise well with snowdrops and aconites. It is possible to add ferns and shade loving iris to provide a contrast later in the season.
Helleborus niger has been crossed with other species to produce a number of interesting hybrids, for example Helleborus ‘Potter’s Wheel’, perhaps the most famous variety with immense white flowers up to 13cm across and comprising of 5 broad overlapping petals.
Other hellebores to try are Helleborus purpurascens which has, as it’s name suggests, purple flowers and can bloom as early as mid-December; Helleborus X sternii is an easy to grow hellebore that produces clusters of showy green flowers tinged with pink and purple.
Helleborus orientalis, the Lenten rose is a popular variety available in a range of captivating colours from pure white to plum purples and black, all these cultivars can be enhanced by varying degrees of dark red spotting.
Helleborus argutifolius, this impressive plant has green flowers and distinctive evergreen foliage and the flowers can appear in late Winter and remain on the plant until late Summer. It is commonly known as the Corsican Hellebore.
Finally Helleborus foetidus known as the Stinking Hellebore has elegant and finely divided leaves with lime green flowers and is worthy of a place in any garden, despite it’s “scent”!
Material Courtesy of www.the-hta.org