Thursday February 6 2020
A welcome flush of colour in a grey, drizzly January, hellebores are Garden Manager Penny’s top pick for Plant of the Month.
With 17 species of European hellebores, there are two native to the UK; helleborus foetidus and helleborus viridus, both of which you can spot in The Red House gardens. With their late winter/early spring flowering, these plants are often the first of the year to come into bloom and remind us over the winter months that perennials have been busy growing buds.
Also known as stinkwort or stinking hellebore, helleborus foetidus is an architectural plant and blooms with cheerful bell-shaped flowers in delightful clusters of pale green. They are identifiable with seven leaflets and dark green leaves. Look for it in the southern beds of the croquet lawn. Helleborus viridis, or green hellebore is – you guessed it, lush in shades of green with six leaflets surrounding clutches of flowers. The strong green of their nodding flowers are actually seen as yellow by bees.
Hellebores are part of the ranunculaceae family – meaning little frog – where you will also find the likes of buttercups, delphinium and clematis. They look good in a woodland setting planted amongst snowdrops and wood anemones, however in the wild they can be found across the Mediterranean, mountainsides and meadows. Favouring free draining soil, some species like shade but they tend to flower better with some sunshine.
Hellebore culitvars lend several shades of cream and pink along the beds at the front of The Red House and the path running down to the Archive. Despite looking almost good enough to eat, hellebores are poisonous – in particular their roots. Used as a worm cure in the medieval period, hellebores were perhaps more dangerous to the patient than the worms.
Another popular hellebore often seen in cultivation is a European variety; Helleborus niger, known as the Christmas Rose. With a striking pure white flower, you can spot this variety around the back of the croquet lawn beds. Apparently the first of the hellebores to flower, we’ve found they like to take their time and tend to come out later in February in our gardens.
In addition to the wonderful flowers coming into bloom at The Red House, you can visit see the national collection of hellebores at Hazles Cross Nursery in Staffordshire with a variety of species and cultivars.
If you would like to know more about what’s growing in our garden please chat to our friendly garden team when you visit The Red House.