Archive for Bearsfoot Hellebore

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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