Archive for Helleborus niger ‘Josef Lemper’

November GBBD: What’s Peaking Now

Posted in evergreen, Fall, Fall Color, hellebores, snowdrops with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 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 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.

This Japanese maple, Acer palmatum, of unknown origin broke off in the ice and snow in January 2011.  For a photo of it then, click here.  It has recovered beautifully with an even more interesting habit.

I have said before that no matter how much I try to enjoy it, November is not my favorite month.  As I wander around, all I see are plants dying back, work to be done, and time running out.  Last year wasn’t too bad because we had a long warm fall with beautiful weather and plenty going on through the middle of November.  I even called my Garden Bloggers Bloom Day post “Prime Time” (click here to see the show).  This year most gardeners in the mid-Atlantic US agree that fall colors on many plants have been muted and gardens have gone by early.  Even September and October contained few of the clear, crisp, and sunny days we look forward to, and then along came Sandy.

A seedling Japanese maple along my front walk.

Despite the bad fall, there are plants in my garden right now that make a stroll outside worthwhile.  What is it about them that so attracts me?  It is that these plants are reaching their ornamental height right now.  They are not just re-blooming or showing a few flowers on a plant that really peaked earlier like asters or phlox, and they are not producing lovely fall color on a woody that I grow just as much for its flowers like hydrangea or viburnum.  November is the month when they reach the top.

The Japanese maples that seeded around this London plane tree produce a variety of fall colors from yellow to orange to red.

In this post I re-introduce you to some of the plants that show their best side in November and December.  I have written about many of them before, and I will provide links to those posts.  However, I wanted to gather these plants together here to provide a complete reference of fall stars to use during your spring shopping  trips.

‘Shishigashira’ is a gorgeous Japanese maple that just starts to turn in mid-November.  It will eventually become a solid orangey red.

When all the other trees have shown their colors and lost their leaves, Japanese maples are just starting to turn.  Every time I go outside I grab my camera to take one more shot of their eye-catching color.  I think it is their prime ornamental characteristic, especially because of its timing, even though I also appreciate their fine branching structure, delicate leaves, and variety of habits.

Fall-blooming hardy cyclamen, C. hederifolium.

The white and pink flowers of hardy cyclamen.

Fall-blooming hardy cyclamen is dormant in the summer and re-emerges in the fall.  To get all the details, click here to read my recent post on this unusual but easy to grow plant.  For the purposes of this post, what makes it so desirable is that November is its peak when its leaves are fully emerged and provide a stunning backdrop for the flowers.

The basic Italian arum, A. italicum, sometimes called ‘Pictum’.


‘Gold Dust’ Italian arum has much more distinct markings with gold veins.


The leaves of ‘Tiny Tot’ Italian arum are about one-third the size (or less) of the species and very finely marked.


Italian arum’s life cycle is very similar to hardy cyclamen: it goes dormant in the summer and comes up fresh and beautiful to peak in the fall and through the winter.  It makes a great groundcover, and you can read more about it by clicking here.


Giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii.

A giant snowdrop with unusually long outer segments (petals).

‘Potter’s Prelude’ giant snowdrop, G. elwesii var. monostichus, is just starting to open in mid-November.

I couldn’t write a post this time of year without mentioning fall-blooming snowdrops.  Although we think of snowdrops as blooming in March, there are several species that bloom in the fall, including G. reginae-olgae, which blooms in October and is done now.  Also the giant snowdrop, whose flowers are quite variable, blooms for a long period from November to February so I have included some photos above.  But the king of fall is ‘Potter’s Prelude’, a very robust and vigorous snowdrop that blooms reliably in November.  For more information, click here to read my post on fall-blooming snowdrops.

Christmas rose ‘Josef Lemper’, Helleborus niger

This photo was taken today—as you can see ‘Josef’ Lemper’s’ October flowers have gone by, but a whole new crop of buds are preparing for November.

 

The Christmas rose ‘Jacob’ begins a month later that ‘Josef Lemper’.  Its buds are just beginning to reach up beyond the leaves.

‘Josef Lemper’ and ‘Jacob’ Christmas roses are also stars in my November garden, producing pure white 3 to 4″ wide flowers set off by smooth evergreen leaves.  Fall is their season, and they produce copious amounts of flowers to cheer up dreary November days.  For more information on fall-blooming hellebores, click here.

Fall-blooming camellia ‘Winter’s Joy’ produces its first two flowers but look at all the buds to come.

The last photo is a teaser because of course fall-blooming camellias play a huge part in my November garden.  As with the other plants profiled, they are not just hanging on into November but instead come into their own then.  Look for an upcoming post featuring my camellias and my recent visit to the garden of a customer who also loves camellias.

All these plants (except the single flower of ‘Josef Lemper’ Christmas rose) are pictured blooming in my garden right now so I am linking to Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day (“GBBD”) hosted by May Dreams Gardens where gardeners from all over the world publish photos of what’s blooming in their gardens.

Carolyn

 

Nursery Happenings:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is done for the fall.  Thanks for a great year.  See you in spring 2013.

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.

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.

 

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Species Hellebores for 2012

Posted in evergreen, hellebores, Shade Perennials, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 8, 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 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.

‘Josef Lemper’ Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, has very large flowers and blooms from November into May depending on the weather.

In my post New Hellebores for 2012, I profiled all the exciting new hybrid hellebores that I am offering this spring.  If you haven’t read it, there are some gorgeous photos.  Now I want to show you the species hellebores that are available at my nursery this year.  In a third post, I will describe what I call the “species crosses” that you can add to your garden this spring.


The Christmas rose ‘Jacob’ is loaded with flowers from November through late spring.

In The Sex Lives of Hellebores, I described the difference between hybrid hellebores, the subject of my February 2012 new hellebore post, and the roughly 15 types of species hellebores.  I sell most of the species by special order, but here I want to profile the five that I will be featuring this year.  My favorite is Christmas rose, Helleborus niger.  Despite its name, I used to have to wait until March to view its lovely pure white flowers.  With the introduction of the cultivars ‘Josef Lemper’ and ‘Jacob’, which reliably start blooming in November, you can now have Christmas roses blooming for Christmas.


Christmas rose flowers age to a lovely pink: ‘Jacob’ with fall-blooming camellia ‘Winter’s Joy’.


Christmas roses have many desirable attributes which I described at length in Christmas Rose: The Perfect Hellebore.  Their outward facing, pure white flowers are framed by lovely blue-green leaves that stay ornamental through winter.  They are deer resistant like hybrid hellebores but are smaller and have a more refined look than the hybrids.  For more information on ‘Jacob’ and ‘Josef Lemper’, see
Hellebores for Fall.

Double Christmas rose, Helleborus niger ‘Double Fantasy’

I am very excited to be able to offer ‘Double Fantasy’, a fully double Christmas rose developed through tissue culture by a nursery in Japan.  Before it was introduced in 2011, I had only seen one double (in Charles Cresson’s garden), and double Christmas roses were not available for sale.  Its flowers are magical.


Fragrant hellebore, Helleborus odorus

The next three species, H. odorus, H. purpurascens, and H. viridis, were all profiled in depth in The Sex Lives of Hellebores because they are all parents of the hybrid hellebores.  However, they are gardenworthy in their own right and have attributes the hybrids don’t have.  I am a big fan of green flowers, and fragrant hellebore, H. odorus, has striking yellow-green flowers with a delicious scent that is pervading my garden right now.  It looks especially nice when grown with dark purple hybrids.


flower of fragrant hellebore

Fragrant hellebore (right) with ‘Blue Lady’ hybrid hellebore



flower of Helleborus purpurascens

Helleborus purpurascens, which has no handy common name, is another one of my favorites.  The colors mixed in its flowers, blue-green and a silvery, smoky purple, have not been duplicated in any of the hybrid flowers.  I would also grow it just for its circular, filigreed leaves:


Helleborus purpurascens


outside of H. purpurascens flower

Green hellebore, H. viridis, has the purest green flowers of almost any plant I grow.  It is also shorter and more compact than the hybrid hellebores and the other species.  It too looks great with dark purple to black flowers, but my favorite combination features green hellebore with a drift of the true blue flowers of brunnera—heaven:


Green hellebore, H. viridis

flower of green hellebore

The final species that I will be offering this spring is bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus.  I profiled this plant in detail in Hellebores for Fall.  Bearsfoot has the most ornamental leaves of any hellebore, and they are truly wintergreen coming through ice and snow looking pristine.  Bearsfoot forms its lovely chartreuse buds in the fall.  The flowers open in winter and remain ornamental until it gets hot.  It is also taller than other hellebores, reaching two feet or more and giving it the stature of a small shrub:


Bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus


unusual, evergreen leaves of bearsfoot hellebore

When I started this post, I thought I would be able to fit the seven species above plus the five “species crosses” I will also be selling this spring.  You know me though: I get excited about hellebores.  By the time I included all the photos I wanted, the post was long enough.  Look for a third post with some exciting crosses, all with Christmas rose as a parent.

Carolyn

Facebook:  Carolyn’s Shade Gardens now 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.

Nursery Happenings: My Hellebore Extravaganza open house sale is Saturday, March 24, from 10 am to 3 pm.  The 2012 Hellebore Seminars are sold out.  To view the 2012 Snowdrop Catalogue, click here.  Snowdrops are still available for pick  up at the nursery, but mail order is closed.

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.

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.

December GBBD: Past Prime

Posted in Camellias, Fall Color, Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, hellebores, Shade Perennials, Shade Shrubs, snowdrops, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2011 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 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.

Every year I make a Christmas wreath using all natural materials from my property.

It is the middle of the month and time to participate in Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day hosted by May Dreams Gardens where gardeners from all over the world publish photos 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.  I also hope that my customers will get some ideas for plants to add to their own gardens to extend their season well into late fall.

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


I used berries from this native winterberry holly, Ilex verticillata ‘Red Sprite’, to make the wreath.  On December 7, the robins came and cleaned off all the berries.

Last month was still prime time in my gardens, but now with hard frosts and generally colder weather, my gardens are past their prime.  The show goes on though with the focus shifted from the garden as a whole to individual plants peaking between November 15 and December 15 (I do not take all my photos on December 15).  This means that they bloom now (or are still blooming), have ornamental fruit, or feature exceptional foliage or fall color during this period.

Let’s start with flowers:

The large and vigorous fall-blooming snowdrop ‘Potter’s Prelude’ is in full bloom through this entire period.  Mine is surrounded by the marbled purple foliage of ‘Frosted Violet’ coralbells, Heuchera villosa ‘Frosted Violet’.  For more on fall-blooming snowdrops, click here.

Over the years, I have planted hundreds of giant snowdrops, Galanthus elwesii, and in the process have acquired plants that bloom in the fall instead of January when this species normally blooms.

I am always raving about the long bloom time of  ‘Shell Pink’ lamium so I thought you might like to see a photo of it in full bloom in December.  For more on lamium as a wintergreen groundcover, click here.

The buds on my paperbush, Edgeworthia chrysantha, have gotten large enough to show their beautiful silvery color and will remain ornamental until they start to open in March.

‘Zebrina’ hollyhock mallow, Malva sylvestris ‘Zebrina’, does not seem to be bothered by hard frosts.

Hellebores are one of the primary contributors to flowers during the winter months:

The spent flower heads of ‘Josef Lemper’ Christmas rose, Helleborus niger ‘Josef Lemper’, which has been blooming since early October, seem more ornamental when everything else has gone by.  Buds are forming at the base for the next wave of bloom.

Since November 15, another Helleborus dumetorum (no common name) has put out fresh foliage and covered itself in flowers.

The lighter chartreuse buds are forming on bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus, which will remain ornamental through May.

‘Jacob’ Christmas rose, Helleborus niger ‘Jacob’, is covered with buds just starting to open.

This photo might not look very exciting, but I am thrilled to see buds on my rare double Christmas rose, Helleborus niger ‘Double Fantasy’.  In all my years of collecting hellebores, I have only seen a double Christmas rose once in a garden.  Now I will be offering blooming plants to my customers in my 2012 snowdrop catalogue.

This is what ‘Double Fantasy’ will look like when it’s open.

My fall-blooming camellias are a mainstay of my garden right now.  The first three pictured below are Ackerman hybrids, which I profiled in Fall-Blooming Camellias Part 1:

This is the last flower on Camellia x ‘Winter’s Darling’.

Camellia x ‘Elaine Lee’ still has a few buds left .

Camellia x ‘Winter’s Joy’ has been flowering since October and is still covered with buds.

Fall-blooming Camellia oleifera is no longer covered with flowers but still continues to produce blooms when the weather warms up.

I was very lucky to receive as a gift this fully hardy, red-flowered Camellia japonica from Korea.  It has not yet been introduced for sale.  For more information on and photos of camellias, including this one, click here and here.

If you are just in it for flowers, then you can stop here because the last few plants rely on leaves to make their contribution.  However, foliage is very important for filling out the late fall garden, and I wanted to give you a few ideas:

Although they have dropped now, dwarf fothergilla, F. gardenii, holds its gorgeous fall leaves way beyond November 15.  For more information on this outstanding native shrub, click here.

Another woody with late fall color is ‘Shishigashira’ Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Shishigashira’.

‘Magic Carpet’ spiraea, S. japonica ‘Magic Carpet’, is still displaying some of its gorgeous fall color right now.

‘Albury Purple’ St. John’s wort, Hypericum androsaemum ‘Albury Purple’, remains fully clothed in plum-colored foliage.

This is the first year that I have grown ‘Cool Splash’ southern bush honeysuckle, Lonicera sessifolia ‘Cool Splash’, but I am amazed to find that it looks like this right now.  For more information on this great native shrub, click here.

I have over 20 kinds of pulmonaria or lungwort in my garden providing me with beautiful flowers from February to April, but I appreciate them almost as much for their pristine foliage through early winter.

‘Diana Clare’ lungwort, Pulmonaria ‘Diana Clare’

Both native ‘Bronze Wave’ coralbells, Heuchera villosa ‘Bronze Wave’, and fall-blooming hardy cyclamen, C. herifolium, will look like this all winter.

My post, More Flowering Wintergreen Ground Covers of Shade, included several photos of Italian arum cultivars, which are great winter interest plants.  I won’t repeat those plants here but show you a seedling that appeared among my arum.  The leaves are more pointy and narrow than the species and the markings go beyond veining to cover the leaf.

If you would like to look at my photos all year round, please consider buying my 2012 calendar, available worldwide, and free ground shipping with the proper code.  For details, click here.

Enjoy the last few days of fall,  Carolyn


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: The nursery is closed for the year.  Look for the snowdrop catalogue (snowdrops are available mail order) in January 2012 and 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 carolynsshadegardens@verizon.net.  Subscribing to my blog does not sign you up to receive this information.

Christmas Rose: The Perfect Hellebore

Posted in hellebores, Shade Perennials, winter interest with tags , , , , , on March 2, 2011 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 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.

The pure white, outward-facing flower of Christmas rose, Helleborus niger

In the rush to seek out the newest and rarest hellebores on the market,  I am afraid that gardeners are neglecting to explore fully the wonderful qualities of the Christmas rose, Helleborus niger.  Christmas rose is a  species hellebore no garden should be without.  In addition, recently introduced cultivars have made this species a must have for gardeners seeking fall and winter interest.

The smooth, blue-green leaves of Christmas rose are pristine and beautiful and often have red stems

Christmas roses have been in cultivation for hundreds of years and are a very distinctive species hellebore with little variation in the wild.  They are native to woodlands and open areas of the central and eastern Alps in Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, and northern Italy.  They are about 9 to 12″ in height with a very woody root system.  The smooth, leathery dark blue-green leaves are deeply divided into 7 to 9 leaflets with irregular teeth around the tip.  If covered with snow, the leaves will stay pristine through the winter.

The buds of Christmas rose are quite ornamental

Christmas rose exhibiting its desirable characteristic of outward-facing flowers

Christmas roses have pure white flowers on upright fleshy stems.  The full, rounded blossoms are outward-facing and open flat with a width of 2 to 5″ and a bloom time starting anywhere from November to March, depending on the cultivar.  The flowers often age to shades of pink to red.  They make a very good cut flower.

Established Christmas roses produce an abundance of flowers

The flowers on Christmas roses often age to pink

Christmas roses prefer a well-drained site rich in organic matter.  High or dappled shade is best, and they seem to prefer the edge of beds.  Although they don’t like to be moved, they are easy to divide because their leaves and flowers are on separate stems.  Once they are established, all they need is a yearly mulch of ground leaves.  Christmas roses are usually found in areas with alkaline soil and several sources recommend applying lime, but I have never found this necessary.

The 3 1/2″ wide flowers of ‘Praecox’ Christmas rose in mid-February in my garden

There are several cultivars of Christmas rose that have enhanced the ornamental qualities of this already desirable hellebore.  The straight species blooms in the mid-Atlantic area of the U.S. in early March, after the hybrid hellebores, Helleborus x hybridus.  The Christmas rose cultivar ‘Praecox’ moves the start of bloom time up from March to mid to late January.  ‘Praecox’ also produces an abundance of flowers at a young age unlike the straight species, which can take a while to establish itself.

‘Jacob’ Christmas rose coming into bloom in my garden in November–its flowers are 3″ wide

Two more recent introductions from the Helleborus Gold Collection in Germany have moved the start of Christmas rose’s bloom time to November and extended it to May. ‘HGC Jacob’ begins blooming in my garden in mid-November, while ‘HGC Josef Lemper’ begins around December 1.  Both cultivars continue blooming into May.  For detailed descriptions of ‘Jacob’ and ‘Josef Lemper’, read my article Hellebores for Fall by clicking here.

The 4″ wide flowers of ‘Josef Lemper’ blooming through the snow in my garden in February

Although rarely for sale, I treasure my ‘Potter’s Wheel’ Christmas rose, a cultivar with huge flat, 5″ wide symmetrical flowers.  Although most ‘Potter’s Wheel’ is not true to type because it is seed grown, I acquired mine from Arrowhead Alpines, which vegetatively propagates their plants from the original ‘Potter’s Wheel’ in England.

The huge 5″ wide flowers of authentic ‘Potter’s Wheel’ Christmas rose

I hope that you will consider Christmas rose the next time you add to your hellebore collection.

Please let me know in a comment/reply about your own experiences with growing Christmas roses.

Carolyn

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.), 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 taking reservations for my March 18 & 19 Hellebore Seminars.  For the brochure and registration information, click here.  I have a few spaces left for Charles Cresson’s Snowdrops and Other Winter Interest Plants Seminars.  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

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.

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.

Carolyn

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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