Archive for Helleborus niger ‘Praecox’

January GBBD: Hellebores on Parade

Posted in Camellias, evergreen, Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, garden to visit, hellebores, Shade Perennials, Shade Shrubs, snowdrops, winter, winter interest with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 11, 2012 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

I have had this gorgeous double purple hellebore in my garden for several years but it has never bloomed this early.  Photo 1/7/12

It is the middle of the month and time to participate in Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day hosted by May Dreams Gardens (link available on December 15) 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.  This month I hope that my nursery customers and blog readers will get some ideas for plants to add to their own gardens to extend their season through winter.

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

‘Mrs. Betty Ranicar’ is usually one of my first hybrid hellebores to bloom but this is early even for her.

Last January, the whole garden was under snow, and I didn’t even participate in GBBD.  This year couldn’t be more different with 7 days in the 50s (10C) and 6 days at 60 degrees (16C) or above since December 15.  Frankly, I find it extremely worrisome, but it means that I didn’t have to go searching for plants peaking between December 15 and January 15.  There are a few other plants worth featuring, but my hellebores are all blooming early so I call this post Hellebores on Parade.  For the benefit of my customers, I will note which hellebores will be for sale at Carolyn’s Shade Gardens (CSG) this spring.

‘Pink Tea Cup’ has the best pink color of any hybrid hellebore and was the first to come into bloom this season ( for sale at CSG this spring).  Photo 1/9/12

‘Jacob’ Christmas rose just keeps going and going with new white flowers appearing and mixing with the older pink flowers for a gorgeous effect, see below (for sale at CSG).  Photo 12/31/11

‘Jacob’ Christmas rose with Camellia x ‘Winter’s Joy’.  Photo 1/2/12

Flowers are emerging on the hellebore species cross ‘HGC Pink Frost’ (for sale at CSG).  Notice the dark red to burgundy highlights on the leaves and stems and the amazing color of the buds.  As noted in Cutting Back Hellebores, I leave the foliage on to make a nice backdrop for the flowers.  Photo 12/31/11

‘Praecox’ Christmas rose is also blooming at least a month earlier than usual.  Photo 12/31/11

The hellebore species cross ‘HGC Winter’s Song’ is now fully in bloom.  Photo 1/10/12

The rare species Helleborus dumetorum (no common name) continues to bloom (for sale at CSG).  It is deciduous so all the “leaves” in the photo are actually flower bracts.  The leaves will come up later.  Photo 12/31/11

This beautiful, pure white, outward-facing hellebore called ‘Snow White’ (aka ‘Snow Bunting’) is an extremely rare cross between hybrid hellebore and Christmas rose—something that was thought to be impossible (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/9/12

The lighter chartreuse buds of bearsfoot hellebore, H. foetidus, are becoming more prominent and will remain ornamental through May (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/10/12

Helleborus x "Double Purple"Another look at the hybrid hellebore “Double Purple” (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/7/12

My new favorite this year, hellebore species cross ‘HGC Cinnamon Snow’ (for sale at CSG).  I like it so much that I decided to put it in a basket by my front door.  Photo 1/9/12

There are some other plants looking great in my garden besides hellebores.  Most of the fall-blooming camellias still have viable buds but no flowers open to show you.  They will continue to bloom if the weather cooperates.  Here are the non-hellebore stars:

My un-named Korean Camellia japonica, which blooms in the spring and fall, continues to produce flowers.  Photo 1/9/12

Camellia x ‘Elaine Lee’ also has buds, and look at those shiny leaves.  Photo 1/10/12

Camellia x ‘Winter’s Joy’ has been flowering since October and is still covered with buds but none are open right now.

The buds on my variegated winter daphne, D. odora ‘Aureomarginata’, are coloring up early.  It is the sole survivor of five shrubs I put in this spring.  Although I gave them excellent drainage, they just couldn’t tolerate all the rain we had in August and September.  One by one they wilted from too much water and died, while this one remained healthy.  Photo 1/9/12

If we have cold weather, winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, blooms in February, but right now it is opening flowers continuously.  Photo 1/10/12

Galanthus elwesiiThe only snowdrop in bloom right now is the giant snowdrop, Galanthus elwesii (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/9/12

My fall-flowering snowdrop ‘Potter’s Prelude’ has finished blooming, but I wanted to show you its beautiful leaves (for sale at CSG).  Photo 1/1/12

On New Year’s Day, my husband and I went walking in the Pinetum at the Haverford College Arboretum, a wonderful local treasure.  We saw two unusual conifers with great texture that I wanted to share:

Longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, is native from Virginia to Texas but is not usually found around here.

I love firs, and the texture of this Algerian fir, Abies numidica, really stood out.

I dedicate this post to Bob Stewart, my friend and horticulturalist extraordinaire, who died on December 16, 2011.  Bob and his wife Brigitta started the amazing nursery Arrowhead Alpines in Fowlersville, MI.  If you haven’t visited their site, you should by clicking here.  Bob will be greatly missed.


If you would like to look at my photos all year round, please consider buying my 2012 calendar, available worldwide, 20% off through 1/20/12.  For details, click 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.

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.

Christmas Rose: The Perfect Hellebore

Posted in hellebores, Shade Perennials, winter interest with tags , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens

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.


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.

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