February GBBD: Hellebores and Snowdrops

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

Helleborus x 'Warbler'This is just one of the many gorgeous hellebores that will be for sale at my nursery this spring.  ‘Warber’ is a lovely creamy yellow and is blooming in a pot for me right now.

It is the middle of the month and time to participate in Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day (GBBD) hosted by May Dreams Gardens (link available on February 15) where gardeners from all over the world publish photos each month of what’s blooming in their gardens.  I participate because it is fun and educational for me to identify what plants make my gardens shine at different times of the year.  Several nursery customers have mentioned wanting to have color in late winter so I hope they will get some ideas for plants to add to their own gardens to extend their season.

My garden is located in Bryn Mawr (outside Philadelphia), Pennsylvania, U.S., in zone 6B.

Helleborus x 'First Cuckoo'
‘First Cuckoo’ is a double  hellebore with white petals shading to pink with deep raspberry edges.  It is also blooming in a pot and will be for sale this year.

Things really change from year to year.  In February 2011, my hellebores and other winter interest plants were barely emerging from under the ice and snow (to see photos click here).  In February 2012 when we had an extremely warm winter, all my hellebores were in full bloom (to see photos click here). 

This year, my early plants are up and blooming, but most of my hellebores are just starting to send up flowers.  That makes me appreciate the early-blooming varieties even more.  But it is the snowdrops that really steal the show right now.  They give me a reason to walk through the garden every day.  So enjoy the photos and keep warm until spring.  Note: For the benefit of my customers, I will indicate which hellebores will be for sale at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens (CSG) this spring.


Helleborus x ballardiae 'Pink Frost'


Helleborus x ballardiae 'Pink Frost'‘Pink Frost, pictured here with common snowdrops,’ is an early blooming hellebore coveted for its flowers and blue leaves with burgundy highlights.   I can’t decide if the front or the back of the flowers is prettier (for sale at CSG).


Helleborus x ballardiae 'Cinnamon Snow'‘Cinnamon Snow’ is a close relative of ‘Pink Frost’—they both resulted from crosses between Christmas rose and a hellebore species from Majorca.  ‘Cinnamon Snow’s’ creamy flowers flushed with cinnamon pink are very elegant (for sale at CSG).


Helleborus dumetorum subsp. atrorubensThis hellebore is so rare it has no common name but its botanical name is Helleborus dumetorum subsp. atrorubens (for sale at CSG).


Helleborus niger 'Praecox'


Helleborus niger 'Praecox'Christmas roses bloom continually in my garden from October through April.  ‘Praecox’ is the showiest right now but I also love ‘Jacob’, ‘Josef Lemper’, and ‘Potter’s Wheel’ (for sale at CSG).  


Helleborus x 'Old Early Purple'‘Old Early Purple’ is always one of the first hybrid hellebores to burst into bloom.


Helleborus x 'Snow White'This flower on ‘Snow White’ opened so long ago that it is already fading to green from its original pristine white color.


Helleborus x 'Painted Bunting'


Helleborus x 'Painted Bunting'


Helleborus x 'Painted Bunting'‘Painted Bunting’ is always one of the first hybrid hellebores to bloom in my garden.  The bold burgundy red central central star spreads outward along the veins and edges the delicate petals.  Again the back of the flower is quite beautiful (for sale at CSG).

I managed to limit myself to eight snowdrops, all of which I think are very special. 

Galanthus 'S. Arnott'‘S. Arnott’, a classic early snowdrop.


Galanthus 'Ophelia'The fat, rounded flowers and heart-shaped markings of ‘Ophelia’, a double snowdrop in the Greatorex group.


Galanthus plicatus 'Wendy's Gold'Even non-galanthophiles admire ‘Wendy’s Gold’, a rare yellow snowdrop.


Galanthus elwesii 'Kite'I fell in love with the extra long petals of ‘Kite’ when I saw it in a fellow galanthophile’s garden in 2010, and she kindly gave me a plant.  Now there are five with four flowers.


Galanthus 'Blewbury Tart'‘Blewbury Tart’ is just waiting for a warm sunny day to explode into bloom.  You can feel the pent up energy.  Unfortunately sunny days are few and far between right now.


Galanthus 'Lady Beatrix Stanley'The refined elegance of the double snowdrop ‘Lady Beatrix Stanley’ makes her one of my favorites.


Galanthus elwesii with X markI got this unnamed giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, in trade from a customer.  It has very large flowers with a distinctive X marking and starts blooming before Christmas, a very desirable trait.  It is still blooming now.


Galanthus elwesii 'Godfrey Owen'‘Godfrey Owen’ is the snowdrop that I was most looking forward to this year.  It is very unusual for having 6 outer segments instead of the usual three.  When it opens, the petals form a completely symmetrical whorl.  Unfortunately, the flower was flattened by ice immediately upon opening, bending the stem, and then an insect ate away parts of the petals, ruining the whorl.  Isn’t that always the way?  I tried to prop it up unsuccessfully but then bit the bullet and brought it inside.

There are many other plants blooming right now, but it has been so hard to get photos.   The flowers are always closed because the sun refuses to shine, or waterlogged with the never ending rain and snow.  In fact, three of these photos are from previous years, but I decided to use them because they depict the plants as they look today:

Whenever the weather warms up winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, opens some flowers.


Arum italicum 'Pictum'Italian arum always looks great.


Crocus tommasinianusSnow crocus, C. tommasinianus, is the earliest crocus in my garden and is a great companion plant for hellebores and snowdrops.


Eranthis hyemalisI am always surprised by how quickly winter aconite appears in the garden.  Monday there was no sign of it and Tuesday it was carpeting my woods.


Aucuba japonica 'Gold Dust'‘Gold Dust’ Japanese aucuba is one of the best shrubs for lighting up full shade.  If you can find male and female plants, it produces these large berries which ripen now.


Cyclamen coumThe first winter-blooming cyclamen, C. coum, peak through the leaves.  Hardy cyclamen is another great companion for snowdrops and hellebores.


Cyclamen at Carolyn's Shade GardensPots of hardy cyclamen waiting to find homes with my nursery customers.

Enjoy, Carolyn


Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US, zone 6b.  The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

If you are within visiting distance and would like to receive catalogues and information about customer events, please send your full name and phone number to carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings:  The 2013 Snowdrop Catalogue is on the sidebar of the website and orders are being accepted now.  To view the catalogue, click here.  The 2013 General Catalogue is available here.  Look for a brochure for my very popular hellebore seminars very soon.

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a Facebook Page where I post single photos, garden tips, and other information that doesn’t fit into a blog post.  You can look at my Facebook page here or click the Like button on my right sidebar here.

Notes: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.  If you want to return to my blog’s homepage to access the sidebar information (catalogues, previous articles, etc.) or to subscribe to my blog, just click here.

67 Responses to “February GBBD: Hellebores and Snowdrops”


    I so envy your zone – in Ct mine are all under about 2 1/2 feet of snow but the nigers and Pint Frost were in flower before it snowed. In fact a couple started in early December just like a Christmas rose should……..

  2. You really have a plethora or blooming beauties so early in the year! We are still under snow cover and it will be another month and a half before I see anything, including crocus. I do like the aconites. They are a little beacon of light on dreary gray days.

  3. I’m amazed that you have so many plants blooming! You give me hope. The Old Early Purple and Painted Bunting Hellebores are lovely!

  4. Hi Carolyn… I’ve spent quite a bit of time perusing and enjoying what you offered here today as well as in your links, particularly with regard to the hellebores… I have to say that while you have so many beautiful cultiivars, Pheobe is absolutely amazing!

    I’ve been thinking about your advice regarding maintaining hellebores and have decided that in certain areas I will let them seed about some… these are areas where I’ve purchased a number of unnamed cultivars from a series… since I’m not terribly attached to them, I’m curious to see what new crosses mother nature provides down the road. On the other hand, where there are plants that I consider special such as my good sized group of Elegance Whites, I will deadhead as you suggested.

    I have a feeling you are much closer to spring than we are… I hope it stays that way… right now, after much rain, we still have 8-10″ of snow and temps at night are well below freezing… I hope to not see spring until mid-April and perhaps then my magnolias will get to bloom as they should without turning to mush like last year! Take care, Larry

    • Larry, Our night time temperatures are hovering around freezing, but Saturday night it might go down to 23 degrees F. I will need to move a lot of potted snowdrops inside, but everything in the ground will be fine. It’s snowing now but will be 45 F tomorrow so that’s OK. If you have a separate area where you plant one type of hellebore, say good pinks, then the majority of the seedlings will be pink. Generally my hellebores are mixed color wise so I only grow on seedlings that I missed when weeding that have gotten too big to discard. Then I dig them up and sell them when they flower. Your plan sounds good except that it would be interesting to see if your patch of Elegance Whites, if distant from other hybrids, yields double white hellebores. Carolyn

  5. Hi Carolyn,

    What beauties you have featured in this post, if only I lived closer, I’d be right over to snap up a few plants for myself. I especially love the yellow hellebore. All the snowdrops are simply gorgeous!

  6. Such a lot of beautiful flowers, love Painted Bunting, but then, as you know I love all Hellebores! This really is a lovely time of year in a woodland garden, so pretty with all the tiny flowers keeping company with the hellebores. My snowdrop Wendy’s Gold is increasing nicely,we must be lucky, it’s quite easy to get hold of over here. Your Godfrey Owen is a super snowdrop, why do nasty things always happen to special ones!

    • Pauline, ‘Wendy’s Gold’ might be available over there, you are lucky, but it is still quite pricey for a snowdrop in the UK though not in the category with ‘Green Tear’ etc. ‘Painted Bunting’ is lovely and so very early that I appreciate it even more. Carolyn

  7. Pink Frost is an eye-catcher for sure. The yellow Warber is also lovely and reminds me of a friend who is greatly missed.

  8. Cassandra Hogue Says:

    Always lovely to see your garden. My hellebores are mostly still dormant, but one has a bud. they have been great plants, and I love to see the early blooms too. Good suggestions here for companion plants -thanks!

    • Cassandra, All the late winter/very early spring bulbs make great companions for hellebores. Since I am on the side of a south facing hill, plants come up earlier because the soil warms faster. I have also chosen plants for this time of year. Carolyn

  9. Carolyn, this post gave me such pleasure, especially as I’m still some weeks from any outdoor blooms and am housebound recuperating from a knee replacement. Having moved from my former home last autumn, I only had time nd energy to dig a few of my hellebores, and they are currently buried under 2 feet of snow.

  10. I never get tired o seeing your snowdrop Carolyn. I like “Wendy’s Gold” and the one with the x is neat. I have never seen a yellow hellebore before. Pretty! My favourites are still the pinks and the plums. I just love them. Lucky you to have flowers already!

  11. I am really beginning to fall in love with hellebores. Pink frost is fabulous! But, as I scrolled down the page, I realized I thought that about every one of them! Winter jasmine is something I’ve never had in my garden. I wonder if I could find a spot for it somewhere.

  12. Always lovely to see your garden, and I love hellebores. When I see your collection I feel I need to get myself a few more, perhaps some double would be nice, and some more of different colours too. Perhpas in the autumn, when they are cheaper 🙂

    You are much further ahead than us this year, London is zone 9a and my crocuses are not flowering yet, we have had so cold weather for such a long time, the plants have just slowed down. Can’t wait for a proper spring!

    • Helene, I just did a little research and it seems that British and American hardiness zones are equivalent which I never realized. However, the zone is not the most important factor in how far along my plants are. It is the rate at which the soil heats up in the spring. I am on the side of a south-facing hill and down in a hollow that’s protected from winter winds. My plants are usually way ahead of other gardens even in the same area.

      I think some double hellebores would be great for your garden. They can start blooming as early as January and remain ornamental through May. A lot of interest from one plant plus the leaves are evergreen (technically winter green). Carolyn

  13. We have had a fairly mild winter as well, which has me somewhat concerned. I just don’t want spring to fire everything all at once. Your hellebores are beautiful, I have a lot too, but they are all seedlings and are not nearly as showy as yours.

  14. Hellebores are so delicate looking but really are tough to flower so beautifully in winter. sadly my garden is too hot for them but I can admire them at a distance. Thank you, Christina

    • Christina, Some hellebores are native to Italy and other similar places so I would think they would grow for you. Have you ever tried Helleborus lividus native to Majorca or Corsican hellebore native to Corsica and Sardinia. ‘Pink Frost’ is H. lividus crossed with Christmas rose. Carolyn

  15. I dreamed I had a garden full of hellebores last night and I was so thrilled. But I awoke this am to snow deep on the ground, no hellebores to come, and the snowdrops are not even blooming indoors. The paperwhites and cyclamen are beautiful, though.

  16. Happy Bloom Day.

  17. It seems there are more and more cultivars of hellebores every year. You grow some beautiful ones. How nice to have some spring colour now – it is pretty dreary up here today.

  18. I am jealous! Here in Doylestown, which is only 30 miles north of your garden, our snow drops are only beginning to poke out of our recently placed compost and our Hellobores have just barely set buds. How lucky you already have such great blooms!

  19. Hi Carolyn, when it’s winter i already thought of your snowdrops coming out in spring, i associate them with you. I didn’t know those yellow ones are called aconites, when i saw them once in person in their natural habitat with the crocus and snowdrops in the mountains of Turkey, i thought they are crocus too. I love to have a nursery too and do what you are doing. I am envious.

  20. Hello Carolyn,
    Glad to see spring has arrived so beautifully in your garden. Wonderful range of hellebores in your images, and of course Snowdrops. Having only just found it a week ago, I wondered if you or any of your galanthophile readers would be interested in this link http://hdc.org.uk/sites/default/files/research_papers/BOF%2048%20final%20report.pdf
    It’s a weighty 96 page document on snowdrop propagation and growth, which in between the science,makes me think that a new era in widespread Snowdrop cultivation and availability may beckon, and more people will come to appreciate the charms of all the variations in this beguiling plant group. It also got me thinking even more about what/why/where are the best conditions for growing them to thrive. We’re both obviously lucky enough to be able to get them going well, but I know some folk struggle.
    Thanks as ever for a great post,
    Best wishes

    • Julian, Wow, that is a weighty tome. I will have to look through it when I have time. Unfortunately, if hellebores are anything to go by, then ease of propagation will shrink the variety available rather than expand it. Professional growers tend to focus on a limited number of easy to grow, money-making plants and a lot of the wonderful variation selected by avid amateurs goes by the wayside. I can see ‘Wendy’s Gold’ for sale at every nursery but countless other interesting cultivars disappearing. I am never sure where to tell people to grow snowdrops because they seem to grow everywhere here. Of course, I don’t have enough of the specail varieties to really test this—to expensive in the US. Carolyn

  21. Hi Carolyn, you have so much going on at this time of year when many of us just have a Polyanthus and a Snowdrop or two. I was just removing the old leaves from the Hellebores this morning, they were some state, nice new healthy buds well formed though. I do like the Christmas rose ‘Praecox’ which you feature. I must try it again and look for more mature specimen this time, Hellebores just seem to disappear in our garden if we plant young ones. I still haven’t solved the problem with visitors blog links not showing when they comment, I think the box for this url is not showing since I changed my theme.

    • Alistair, I always buy blooming size hellebores and generally have no problem with losing them, although I did lose one or two this year. I also want to make sure that they look like what I want them to look like before I go to the expense and work of adding them to my garden. The problem I mentioned was with the link appearing here when you commented on my blog and that seems to have been fixed because the link to your blog is here with your comment in addition to your email. Carolyn

  22. I absolutely adore seeing pictures of the hellebores and snowdrops and that yellow hellebore is beckoning me…I wish we had anything growing…seems the only thing is more snow….

  23. Carolyn, Even though Bryn Mawr and Gettysburg are in the same USDA zone, your garden seems to be considerably ahead of mine. I haven’t seen any snowdrops blooming yet in Gettysburg, and neither my crocus nor those in the gardens along my route to work have appeared yet. (I’m guessing the difference is that you get the moderating effects of the coastal waters and we don’t.) I don’t have hellebores planted in my Gettysburg garden, but I did add some in Maine last year; so I’m looking forward to seeing them there later. I doubt they’ll be visible when I’m there in March, but maybe by my late April garden spring clean-up visit.

  24. I just love the photos of all the different hellebores. I still haven’t found a sufficiently shady area for shade plants on my property but one of these days when I do I’ll be going crazy with hellebores. The yellow particularly make me drool.

  25. I loved to see your beautiful Hellebores, such a beauties and all are named too. I understand you have a nursery so names are extra ordinary important. I bought I think about 8 namen Hellebores, I have many in my garden but all from seedlings. Often you get lovely ones. I am here on your blog for the first time, so I have to read more. I see that everything in Pennsylvania is somewhat earlier than here on the other side of the ocean, The Netherlands.

  26. So many of my favorites from winter jasmine and winter aconite to ‘Pink Frost’ and ‘Cinnamon Snow’ hellebores!

    I seem to be having aphid issues on my hellebores this year, perhaps because we haven’t had a prolonged really cold spell.

  27. I have to say that your Blog is one of the best I have seen featuring their spring blooms!
    I have just fallen in love with Hellebore First cukoo. I must see if I can source that over here. It’s been my pleasure looking in

  28. Carolyn, thank for your comment in my blog, I replied to your question and I copy it here: “Carolyn, you are the expert I trust you. I talked to the curator at the HB, who confirmed they have both varieties in the collection. The area I photographed had the label of Galanthus elwesii Hook, but could happen another G. woronowii had spread there. I checked images and it is dificult to say I do not see other labels to confirm. But in any case, your comment shows how expert you are in snowdrops!! Thank you.”
    You have an image of G. elwesii in this post and I am trying to compare. I am afraid I will have to wait till bnext year to find ou about the two varieties, and i will keep you posted. Meanwhile, I really enjoyed your images of hellebores and snowdrops. Thank you

  29. I really like the hellebore/snowdrop combination, so much so that I have been inspired to move some of my snowflakes (not as special as snowdrops but with a similar look) to my hellebore bed. As always, I have complete admiration for your own hellebores. I would love to have some of the yellow ones; so far I have not found a local source.

  30. I am enjoying my Hellebores, never planted them before moving here…no shade in VA. I am still coveting the cyclamen coum…..time to order some!

  31. You’ve got some lovely winter bloomers! So very pretty this time of the year.

  32. […] February GBBD: Hellebores and Snowdrops (carolynsshadegardens.com) […]

  33. […] February GBBD: Hellebores and Snowdrops (carolynsshadegardens.com) […]

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