Archive for Bearsfoot Hellebore

Early Spring Beauty at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens

Posted in bulbs for shade, evergreen, groundcover, hellebores, landscape design, my garden, native plants, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2017 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Hellebores are in their prime.  Here is a claret colored hybrid at sunrise.  We have a wonderful selection of hellebores for sale right now.

Apparently winter is over, although nothing could surprise me in the weather department this year.  Last weekend when Kelly Norris, Director of Horticulture at the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden, visited my gardens, the tour consisted of me pointing and saying “if it were really spring, you would be seeing….”  Now the garden is bursting, please come back Kelly :-)!

Nursery News:  Email for an appointment to shop for many of the plants featured in this post or come on Saturday between 10 am and 3 pm when customers are picking up their edgeworthias, just email me a time.  Our second sale featuring hellebores and native plants is Saturday, April 15, from 10 am to 3 pm (checks and cash only).  Customers will get details in an email.  For announcements of spring 2017 events, please sign up for our customer email list by sending your full name and phone number to  Let us know if you are local or mail order only.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus, stood up particularly well during the extreme heating and cooling and heavy snow that March threw at it.  Lots of customers have been asking for these, and we have more in stock.


‘Goldheart’ old-fashioned bleeding-heart seems to appear overnight.  It turns into a majestic plant with gold leaves and pink flowers, a combination I have grown to love.


.‘Diana Clare’ pulmonaria’s large blue flowers look spectacular with its emerging silver leaves.


Once you have a couple of varieties of pulmonarias, they start to cross and every one is beautiful.


The lovely, pale yellow flowers of Anemone x seemanii were produced by a cross between A. ranunculoides and A. nemorosa, European wood anemones.  Very rare and available at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens for the first time this year!


Our native double bloodroot, Sanguinaria ‘Mulptiplex’, is my all time favorite flower.  It seems to prefer the rocky slope in my woodland, and I often see the single form on road embankments.  We take special orders for this plant.


Our display gardens have about forty types of epimediums, and their flowers are popping out of the ground.  Here, the orange-flowered E. x warleyense.  We will be selling this epimedium along with ‘Roseum’, ‘Niveum’, ‘Lilafee’, E. grandiflorum, and the rarer ‘Yubae’ (Rose Queen) and ‘Pierre’s Purple’.


Epimedium pinnatum subsp. colchicum

One of the first plants I ever planted and still a favorite: Dutchman’s breeches, Dicentra cucullaria.  Available this spring.


There are lots of dogtooth violets in our woodland and they have even crossed and produced some stunning new forms.  This is the European Erythronium dens-canis.  Its flowers are gorgeous but sparse.  We sell the US native ‘Pagoda’, a vigorous plant with many yellow flowers just starting to open.


Everything is so late this year!  Native moss phlox ‘Emerald Blue’ is just starting to open its flowers.  Moss phlox makes a great, evergreen groundcover in sun to part shade in dry areas.  Ask us to point out our amazing stand of the white-flowered form ‘Nice n’ White’.  We also sell purple, crimson, and a new, more compact cultivar called ‘Emerald Pink’ that looks like a miniature boxwood.


‘Shell Pink’ lamium bursts into bloom now but then continues to flower until December.  It is the only lamium that produces flowers for three seasons.  Its leaves are also semi-evergreen so the ground is never bare.  It is not invasive and should not be confused with the yellow-flowered lamiastrum.


Anemone ranunculoides, a parent of A. x seemanii shown earlier, is a bolder color and faster spreader.  We also sell ‘Bractiata’, ‘Vestal’, ‘Alba Plena’, and ‘Wyatt’s Pink’ European wood anemones.


Now we get to one of my favorite plants, Corydalis solida, which you will see all over my garden in a rainbow of colors.  Its common name is fumewort, but I never hear anyone call it that.  The photo above shows the varieties that I sell: ‘George P. Baker’ in the foreground, ‘Purple Bird’ in the center, followed by ‘Beth Evans’, and ‘White Knight’ at the very back.


‘White Knight’ is new this year and is a stunning form, densely packed with pure white flowers.


If you let Corydalis solida self-sow in your garden, you will get some gorgeous un-named forms like the blue above.  Unlike other brightly colored corydalis, fumewort comes back reliably every year.  It goes dormant after it flowers but reappears bigger and better the next spring.





A mixture in my woodland

If you are local and want to get a jump on the April 15 open house sale, we are around today, tomorrow, and all weekend.  Just email for an appointment.  Or come Saturday between 10 am and 3 pm when customers are picking up their edgworthias—let me know an approximate time.



Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name and phone number to  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.  Please indicate if you will be shopping at the nursery or are mail order only.

Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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.

2013 Winter Interest Plants

Posted in garden to visit, hellebores, Shade Gardening, snowdrops, winter, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 4, 2013 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

Galanthus 'Brenda Troyle'Galanthus ‘Brenda Troyle’ is one of the most robust and fragrant snowdrops in the Cresson garden.

This may be my last post that focuses on snowdrops, and I am sure some readers will rejoice.  I am aware that many gardeners do not share (or understand) my obsession.  However, I want to show photos from the recent Winter Interest Plants Seminars hosted by Charles Cresson for my nursery customers. 

Before I get to that though, I have to tell you about the snowdrop event this weekend at Winterthur, the fabulous garden in Delaware, US.  On Saturday, March 9, at 11 am, Alan Street, the world famous snowdrop expert from Avon Bulbs in England, is presenting the annual Bank to Bend Lecture on snowdrops.  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens will be one of two nurseries selling snowdrops and other winter interest plants at Winterthur.  I hope to see you there.  Here are the details:


Join plantsman and snowdrop expert Alan Street of the renowned nursery Avon Bulbs as he offers insight into these precious flowers, sharing how they have become a worldwide phenomenon and how Avon Bulbs brings them to market. Registration includes tours of the March Bank display and access to specialist nurseries selling snowdrops and other winter interest plants. $20 non-members; $10 members.

Call 800.448.3883 to register or find out more.

Bank to Bend includes free admission to the garden, tours of the March Bank and access to specialist nurseries Black Hog Horticulture and Carolyn’s Shade Garden to purchase rare and unusual bulbs and other winter interest plants.


Cresson Winter Interest SeminarCharles Cresson talks about his witch hazels, winter aconite, and snowdrops with some die hard winter interest gardeners.

This is the third year that nationally known horticulturalist Charles Cresson has hosted my customers in his Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, garden to view and discuss winter interest plants.  Every year we see different plants, depending on the weather, but every year the group is just as enthusiastic despite the weather.  This year, February (and all winter really) has been cold and dismal, and the seminar days were no exception, but the attendees were enthusiastic and full of questions for Charles.

Cresson Winter Interest SeminarsCharles demonstrates how he protects important plants with plastic boxes if the weather is going to be unseasonably cold.

Plants are “late” to come out this year because it has been so cold.  The emergence of winter interest plants like perennials and bulbs is dependent more on the soil temperature than on the date.  If the soil warms up early, as it did in 2012 when we had no winter, many plants will bloom early.  This year it has been cold and gray, and many plants have yet to bloom or emerge.  Yet, such is the magic of Charles’s garden that there was a lot to see.  Here are some of the highlights in the order in which we saw them:

Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'After seeing this daffodil for many years blooming in Charles’s garden in February, I finally added it to mine this year.  It is called Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’.


Eratnhis hyemalis (pale yellow form)A rare pale yellow form of winter aconite, Eranthus hyemalis.


Crocus tommasinianusThe snow crocus, C. tommasinianus, is my favorite crocus because it blooms now with the snowdrops and multiplies rapidly.


Crocus tommasinianus 'Ruby Giant'‘Ruby Giant’ snow crocus is a deeper purple.


Crocus tommasinianus 'Taplow Ruby'‘Taplow Ruby’ snow crocus


Galanthus 'Atkinsii'Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ is an old-fashioned and reliable snowdrop that should be part of any collection.


Galanthus 'Atkinsii' & Arum italicum 'Pictum'One of my favorite combinations, ‘Atkinsii’ with Italian arum, A. italicum ‘Pictum’.


Helleborus x ballardiae 'Pink Frost' with Cotoneaster salicifolius 'Henryi'The leaves of ‘Pink Frost’ hellebore, H. x ballardiae ‘Pink Frost’, pair beautifully with this rare cotoneaster, C. salicifolius ‘Henryi’.


Helleborus foetidus & Helleborus x ballardiae 'Pink Frost'‘Pink Frost’ again with bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus, in another winning combination.


Helleborus x ericsmithii 'Winter's Song'‘Winter’s Song’ hellebore, H. x ericsmithii ‘Winter’s Song’ is very early blooming so it was fully out on this cold February day.


Helleborus x 'Ivory Prince'‘Ivory Prince’ hellebore was just starting to open.


Iris unguicularis subsp. cretensisThis subspecies is an especially dark colored version of the winter-blooming Algerian iris, Iris unguicularis subsp. cretensis.


Galanthus 'Mighty Atom'

Galanthus ‘Mighty Atom’ has one of the best presentations of any snowdrop.


Galanthus rizehensisGalanthus rizehensis is a rare and desirable snowdrop species.


Galanthus 'Standing Tall'Charles’s newly introduced snowdrop ‘Standing Tall’ continues to stand up to whatever the weather throws at it.  If you didn’t know better you would think it was a daffodil.


Galanthus elwesii 'Standing Tall' Cresson photo-001‘Standing Tall’ in full bloom in early January.


Galanthus 'Beth Chatto' ‘Beth Chatto’


Galanthus 'Godfrey Owen'Charles and I both acquired six-petaled ‘Godfrey Owen’ last year but his was not felled by snow and ice.


Galanthus 'Godfrey Owen'‘Godfrey Owen’


Galanthus 'Godfrey Owen'The inner segments of ‘Godfrey Owen’ are extraordinary too.  This photo represents to me what galanthophiles are all about.


I know the participants enjoyed themselves because even after an hour and a half in the cold, they were still asking Charles questions.  I hope my readers have gotten some vicarious enjoyment.

I you would like to see what was featured during the 2011 and 2012 seminars, follow these links:

2011 Winter Interest Plants

2012 Winter Interest Plants



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  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Nursery Happenings:  We are now accepting reservations for our very popular Hellebore Seminars .  The Friday session is full but the session on Monday, March 18, at 10:00 am has nine spaces left.  For details, click here.  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.

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.

February GBBD: Add to Your Spring Shopping List

Posted in Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, garden to visit, hellebores, snowdrops, winter, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 14, 2011 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

“Spring-blooming” hardy cyclamen, Cyclamen coum, sends out its first bud

It is time to walk around your garden again and assess what you need to add to make the end of winter an exciting time in your landscape.  Do you need more early-blooming hellebores to give you a reason to go outside?  Could your garden benefit from flowers that bloom in January and February like hardy cyclamen, snow crocus, or snowdrops to relieve the gray?  Make a list and take photographs so that when you are shopping this spring you know what you need and where it should go.  I know it’s icy outside, but you never know what you might find to end the winter doldrums like the hardy cyclamen (pictured above), which I discovered during my own chilly inventory.

Snowdrops and winter aconite on Winterthur’s March Bank, photo courtesy of Winterthur

If you need ideas, visit local arboretums and gardens.  I always find a trip to Winterthur, an elegant and intimate public garden in Delaware, highly inspirational and informative.  Starting March 1 when Winterthur opens for spring, the area of the gardens known as the March Bank erupts into bloom with tens of thousands of snowdrops, adonis, winter aconite, snow crocus, early scillas, glory-of-the-snow, spring snowflake, and early daffodils.

Snowdrops and winter aconite on Winterthur’s March Bank in early March, photo courtesy of Winterthur

Later in March, glory-of-the-snow, Chionodoxa, takes over, photo courtesy of Winterthur

Today is Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day for February when gardeners around the world show photos of what’s blooming in their gardens (follow the link to see  photographs from other garden bloggers assembled by Carol at May Dreams Gardens).  Here are a few more highlights from my mid-February stroll through Carolyn’s Shade Gardens:

Very early-blooming double white hellebore, Helleborus x hybridus ‘Mrs. Betty Ranicar’

Bearsfoot hellebore, Helleborus foetidus, was waiting under the ice

Sweetbox, Sarcococca hookeriena var. humilis, prepares to perfume the garden

‘Jacob’ Christmas rose, Helleborus niger ‘Jacob’, began blooming in October and has waited patiently under the snow and ice for a chance to show its flowers again

The lowly Japanese pachysandra, P. terminalis, forms its flowers the previous season adding winter interest to its evergreen leaves

The flower buds of hybrid hellebores, Helleborus x hybridus, wait for the hard-packed snow to melt, in warmer years they would be in bloom now

Some hybrid hellebores are farther along than others

Giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii, was the first flower through the snow in 2011 (see Are Snowdrops Thermogenic?) and was also blooming in December

With our near record-breaking snowfall accompanied by generous doses of ice (see The Joys and Sorrows of Snow), I wasn’t planning on participating in February’s Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day.  But when I grabbed my camera and walked around, there was much to be seen.   In addition to the flowers, there was more than enough views of the destruction of the winter by nature and otherwise.

Remnants of the white pine and coral bark maple branches lost this winter

The signs marking my epimedium collection after the ravages of my three snowboarding teenage sons.

Please let me know in a comment/reply what flowers are blooming in your winter garden.  If you participated in GBBD, please provide a link so my nursery customers can read your post.


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.), just click here.

Nursery Happenings: I am currently accepting orders for snowdrops, including  mail orders.  For the catalogue and order information, click here.  I am also taking reservations for Charles Cresson’s Snowdrops and Other Winter Interest Plants Seminar.  For the brochure and registration information, click here.

Hellebores for Fall

Posted in Fall, Fall Color, hellebores, Shade Perennials with tags , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2010 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

bearsfoot hellebore at Carolyn's Shade GardensBearsfoot hellebore growing in my manure pit wall

Hybrid hellebores, the variety of hellebore that most gardeners grow with the big, nodding, showy flowers in beautiful colors, are generally not fall-blooming plants.  They give depth to the fall garden through their evergreen foliage, but they are not thought of for flowers (except a rogue hybrid bloom now and then).  In the mid-Atlantic, they bloom as early as January, but generally start to flower in February.  But there are a few species (as opposed to hybrid) hellebores that flower in fall, and my late fall garden has been much enhanced by their addition.

foliage of bearsfoot hellebore at Carolyn's Shade GardensWinter foliage of bearsfoot hellebore

If I had to choose a favorite hellebore, and I have almost every species and hundreds of hybrids, I would pick the bearsfoot hellebore, Helleborus foetidus.  It wouldn’t be for its charming Latin name: foetidus speaks for itself.  And not for its alternate common name, stinking hellebore, though it doesn’t deserve that name when you have to mangle the leaves to elicit a smell.  Rather I would choose it for its substantial 2′ evergreen presence, like a miniature rhododendron in the garden.  And for the interesting spidery texture of its always pristine dark green leaves.  But mostly for how its chartreuse bell-like buds and flowers perch atop its beautiful foliage from November into May.

buds emerging from bearsfoot hellebore at Carolyn's Shade GardensFall buds emerging from bearsfoot hellebore

Bearsfoot hellebore grows in part to full shade and is the only hellebore that I am aware of that likes slightly moist soil.  That being said, my grove—if they are happy, they spread—received no additional water for the entire summer of 2010 when we had the worst heat and drought I have ever experienced.  Bearsfoot and all my other hellebores came through with flying colors.  I grow all my hellebores with plenty of compost.

buds of bearsfoot hellebore at Carolyn's Shade GardensFall buds of bearsfoot hellebore

Bearsfoot hellebore in full bloom

Two other fall-blooming hellebores are superior selections from the true Christmas rose, the species Helleborus niger.  Christmas roses are beautiful plants and well worth growing for their outward-facing, starry, pure white flowers and elegant blue-green leaves.  But the straight species is sadly mis-named.  In the mid-Atlantic, it blooms in March  at the earliest when Christmas has long past.  However, the amazing plant breeders at Heuger in Germany who have produced the superior Helleborus Gold Collection have developed two Christmas roses that bloom from November into May.

Christmas rose 'Jacob' at Carolyn's Shade GardensChristmas rose ‘Jacob’

The first, HGC ‘Jacob’, is a compact and refined plant 6 to 8″ tall with graceful, smooth dark green leaves.  It starts blooming in mid-November (it was a little late this year) with copious 2 to 3″ white flowers maturing to rose, and continues to produce buds into May.  The second is HGC ‘Josef Lemper’, a 10″ plant with 3 to 3 1/2″ flowers and larger, lighter green leaves.  It  comes into bloom about two weeks later than ‘Jacob’ and also continues to May.

Christmas rose 'Jacob' at Carolyn's Shade GardensChristmas rose ‘Jacob’ coming into bloom in November

Christmas rose 'Josef Lemper' at Carolyn's Shade GardensEmerging buds of Christmas rose ‘Josef Lemper’

Christmas roses are a little more finicky than hybrids.  Like most hellebores, they prefer well-drained sites with plenty of organic matter.  But they have a definite preference for the edges of beds in part shade as opposed to sunnier or shadier spots.  My best stand is in an open area shaded by 100′ trees on a steep slope.  I have never found that they needed supplemental lime as the books suggest.

Helleborus dumetorum at Carolyn's Shade GardensHelleborus dumetorum

I am throwing in the final fall-blooming hellebore more for curiosity sake than for its ornamental value.  Over the years, I have collected most of the hellebore species.  I have tried  to get them from more than one source so I could compare them.  The variation is amazing, but no more than hellebore aficionados like Graham Rice will tell you to expect.  One plant I have collected is H. dumetorum—it’s so obscure it doesn’t have a common name.  Its small green flowers and ordinary leaves do not endear it to gardeners.  However, I am including a photograph of one of my plants here because every year it blooms in late October and continues to spring.

For more information on hellebores, I highly recommend noted hellebore expert Graham Rice’s website.  The book The Gardener’s Guide to Growing Hellebores by Graham Rice and Elizabeth Strangman is excellent.  It includes amazing pictures showing the variation within the different species.  I will add both sources permanently to my sidebar so you can always find them.  If you really want all the details about hellebores, try Hellebores by Brian Mathew (Alpine Garden Society).  It is out-of-print but available at horticultural libraries, including the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.


This is part one in a series of articles on hellebores, one of the specialties of my nursery.  Here are links to all six articles:

Part One        Hellebores for Fall

Part Two       An Ode to Seed Strain Hellebores

Part Three   Christmas Rose: The Perfect Hellebore

Part Four      Dividing Hybrid Hellebores

Part Five       The Sex Lives of Hellebores

Part Six          Double Hellebores

Part Seven   Cutting Back Hellebores

Note: Every word that appears in orange on my blog is a link that you can click for more information.

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