Archive for Helleborus argutifolius

Tudor Walled Garden in Kilkenny Ireland

Posted in garden to visit, hellebores, landscape design with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 23, 2019 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

heritage2-e1464010072611-001 Tudor walled garden at Rothe House in Kilkenny, Ireland (courtesy of the Rothe House Museum website)

During our recent trip to Ireland, Michael and I visited the lovely and interesting town of Kilkenny, home to Ireland’s “Medieval Mile”.  We were especially interested in seeing the Rothe House Museum and Garden but very much enjoyed the whole town.  The Rothe House is actually three houses and three courtyards plus a large walled garden, all built between 1594 and 1610 by John Rothe Fitz Piers, a merchant, landowner, and Mayor of Kilkenny.  He and his wife Rose Archer and their 12 children lived there until John’s death in 1620 when his oldest son Peter took over the business and property.

Nursery News:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  We are open from approximately December 15 to June 15. The only plants that we ship are snowdrops to US customers only.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and cell number (for back up use only) to  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Street view of the Rothe House (courtesy of Ireland Dept. of Environment, Heritage, and Local Government)

Between 2005 and 2007, the Kilkenny Archaeological Society, which owns the building complex, excavated the walled garden area, which runs from the back of the mansion on Parliament Street to the city wall.  The excavations exposed the original layout of the very large Tudor era garden, including its planting beds, paths, walls, and even the seeds and pollen of the 17th century plants.  Over 2,000 artifacts from the period were recovered.  Based on these discoveries, the garden has been meticulously restored using plants from the 17th century.


The entrance to the Rothe House walled garden is through this archway from an inner courtyard.

This garden is very large for an urban, walled garden.  The lower garden near the house contains vegetables and herbs, while the upper garden is an orchard.  It was pouring rain the day we were there—the only day it rained while we were in Ireland—which made it difficult to take photos.  The weather was also not conducive to reading all the explanatory signs, which would have been very helpful when putting this post together.  Nevertheless, I think you will enjoy seeing the garden, and I hope you will visit it if you are ever in Ireland.


Looking back over the vegetable and herb garden towards the house.


Everything was very well maintained.


borage and other edible and medicinal plants including artichokes at the back right


As usual, I envy the delphiniums as it is too hot and humid to grow them in southeastern Pennsylvania.


Another plant that grows much better in Ireland: Corsican hellebore.  We can grow it in PA, but the leaves, which unlike hybrid hellebores have the flowers at the end of their stalks, always get ruined over the winter and look awful when the flowers open.  I forgo the flowers, trim the plant to the ground, and enjoy the fresh leaves for the rest of the season.


Michael, bundled up against the rain, gives some perspective on the mammoth size that Corsican hellebores attain in the mild Irish climate.


Luckily, hybrid hellebores do beautifully in Pennsylvania and in Ireland.


Lupines don’t grow in the Pennsylvania heat and humidity either but were beautiful all over Ireland.


I have tried this Jacob’s ladder, Polemonium caeruleum, several times in my garden and see it for sale at many local nurseries in Pennsylvania.  Again, it is unsuited to our climate—now I know where it does grow well.  Luckily, native dwarf Jacob’s ladder, P. reptans, does beautifully in Pennsylvania.






More delphinium envy!



A lovely meadow like area between the lower and upper garden.


Looking from the lower garden into the orchard


the orchard


Providing a home for orchard pollinators



Next up a Victorian walled garden at Kylemore Abbey.



Nursery Happenings: You can sign up to receive catalogues and emails about nursery events by sending your full name, location, and cell number (for back up contact use only) 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 interested in mail order snowdrops 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 only within the US.

Facebook: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens has a very active 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.

Cutting Back Hellebores

Posted in evergreen, hellebores, Shade Perennials, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2012 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

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  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.

‘Jacob’ Christmas rose, Helleborus niger ‘Jacob’, right now in my garden.  It always starts blooming in the fall, see Hellebores for Fall.  Photo 1/1/12

I usually don’t think about cutting back my hellebores until mid-February when the flower stalks begin to extend up through the old leaves.  However, here in southeastern Pennsylvania, we have had unusually mild weather during December—10 days over 50 degrees (10 C) and 8 days at 60 degrees (16C).  Hellebores that don’t usually bloom until February are coming into bloom now.  It seems like a good time to explain the ins and outs of cutting back the old leaves on hellebores.  This is done for aesthetic reasons and is not necessary for the health of the plant.

This beautiful hybrid hellebore, H. x hybridus ‘Pink Tea Cup’, is fully out right now.  It usually blooms in February.  Photo 12/31/11

The genus Helleborus contains about 15 species, and decisions about how to care for them require some knowledge of exactly which hellebores you have and how they grow.  The most commonly available hellebores are hybrid hellebores, Helleborus x hybridus (the Royal Horticultural Society approved name, previously called Lenten rose),  with the large, showy, nodding flowers in an amazing range of colors.  For some beautiful photos, check out my articles An Ode to Seed Strain Hellebores and Double Hellebores.  Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, is also regularly found in gardens: for photos see Christmas Rose: The Perfect HelleboreBoth hybrid hellebores and Christmas roses produce leaves and flowers on separate stems (botanists call them acaulescent) so cutting back the leaves has no affect on the flowers.  The questions is when to cut.

If there is a “common” hellebore, then the un-named hybrid hellebore above would be it.  I couldn’t even begin to count the number of flowers on this one plant.  No leaves are visible yet, what you are seeing are bracts on the flower stems.  Photo 3/21/11

I do not cut back the leaves of hybrid hellebores in the fall because they are very pretty through the winter.

Hybrid hellebores have attractive leaves that stay green all winter (wintergreen), adding interest to the winter garden, so I leave them on as long as they look nice.  They are not evergreen though so the old leaves should be cut off when they become unsightly in late winter.  It is easiest to do this when the flower buds are still at the soil level and the old leaf stems and new flower stems are not yet intermingled.

This photograph illustrates the new flower stems emerging among the old leaf stems, which will be cut off February 15.  Usually the leaves are standing up causing old and new to mingle, but also providing some protection from cold weather.  Photo 12/31/11

In addition to winter interest, I also leave the old leaves on to protect the flower buds should we experience very cold weather in January and early February.  For southeastern Pennsylvania, this could be as low as -5 degrees (-21C).  I cut back my hybrid hellebores around February 15.  The same rules apply for the nine species hellebores that are the parents of hybrid hellebores (see The Sex Lives of Hellebores) should you have them in your garden.

This straight species Christmas rose is blooming right now in my garden—it has never bloomed before March in the almost 15 years I have had it.  Notice the lack of leafy bracts on the stem.  Photo 12/31/11

Christmas roses have very clean and elegant, blue-green leaves.

Christmas roses have even more beautiful wintergreen leaves.  Although you can cut them back without affecting the flowers (they are acaulescent), my considerations for this hellebore are somewhat different.  The flower stems of hybrid hellebores contain the buds and also leaf-like bracts, which provide a pleasing green backdrop for the blooming flowers (see photo of pink hybrid above).  Christmas rose flower stems have no bracts so if you cut off all the leaves, to me, the plant looks naked when it blooms.  As long as the leaves remain halfway decent, I leave them on until later in the season to serve as a frame for the flowers.  The leaf and flower stems do not intermingle so cutting them later is not a problem.

The buds of bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus, emerge from the top of the leaf stem in the fall.  For more photos of this spectacular hellebore, see Hellebores for Fall.  Photo 12/2/10

There are two more wintergreen hellebore species that make their way into hellebore lovers’ gardens: Corsican hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius, and bearsfoot hellebore, Helleborus foetidus.  Botanists call these species caulescent because the flowers are not separate but are on the end of the leaf stem.  You cannot cut off the leaf stem until after the plant has flowered because you will be removing the flower buds.  And if you cut off the individual leaves, you are left with a long, ugly stalk, typically 2-3′, with the flowers at the tip.

I grow Corsican hellebore, H. argutifolius, as much for its gorgeous wintergreen leaves as for its flowers.

In mild winters when the leaves remain attractive, this is not a problem.  It is also usually not a problem for bearsfoot hellebore whose leaves remain pristine during very cold winters.  However, Corsican hellebore leaves are easily damaged, and I often make the decision to sacrifice the flowers and cut the plants back to the ground rather than look at their unsightly leaves while they bloom.  I grow this species equally for its foliage, and new growth springs up very quickly when the old stems are removed.

H. x ericsmithii ‘Winter’s Song’ in my garden right now—much earlier than normal for this species cross.  Notice the leafy bracts surrounding the flowers.  Photo 12/31/11

H. x ballardiae ‘Pink Frost’ displaying the pink color inherited from its parent H. lividus.  Photo 3/21/11

That pretty much covers care and maintenance of the hybrid hellebores and the available species hellebores.  However, a large group of gorgeous species crosses are beginning to appear in local gardens (especially if the gardener has been shopping at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens), and I want to let you know how to care for them.  These plants are generally the progeny of Christmas rose crossed with Corsican hellebore and/or Helleborus lividus (not hardy here) to produce elegant outward-facing flowers and silver-marbled leaves often with red highlights and stems.  The most familiar crosses are H. x ericsmithii (‘Silvermoon’, ‘Winter’s Song’), H. x nigercors (‘Honeyhill Joy’, ‘Green Corsican’), and H. x ballardiae (‘Pink Frost’).

H. x nigercors ‘Green Corsican’: all the Christmas rose crosses have copious amounts of large, very desirable outward-facing flowers.  Photo 3/21/11

The Christmas rose crosses grow differently than either of the two groups discussed above.  Their leaves are one of their best features, and I cut them back only if they are unsightly.   They do have leaves and flowers on the same stems so you cannot cut the stems back to the base if cutting is necessary.  However, the plants are generally short, 12 to 15″, and produce such an abundance of flowers that cutting off individual leaves from the main stem does not leave an ugly stalk.  In addition, the flowers usually have leafy bracts to frame their beauty.

Our 2010-2011 winter was very hard on hellebore leaves.  However, even though I cut almost all the damaged leaves off these H. x ericsmithii ‘Silvermoon’ plants, they still look beautiful.  Photo 3/24/11

I hope I have answered all your questions about cutting back hellebores.  If not, feel free to seek clarification in a comment.  You are probably wondering what I will do this year when the hellebores are blooming early.  I have decided that discretion is the better part of valor so no leaves will be removed until mid-February.


If you would like to look at my photos all year round, please consider buying my 2012 calendar, available worldwide.  For details, click here.  It is 25% off through January 6, 2012, with the code ONEMORETHING at checkout.

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

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.

Nursery Happenings: To view the 2012 Snowdrop Catalogue, click here. I am currently accepting orders—snowdrops are available mail order.

Look for an exciting new hellebore offering in February 2012.  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.

%d bloggers like this: