One of the challenges facing a garden designer is how to make a garden look good all year round. The choice of plants for spring, summer and even autumn is endless, but when it comes to the colder months of the year you need to rely heavily on shrubs and ornamental grasses that will add colour and structure even in winter. Fortunately, there are loads of these to choose from and I relish the challenge of producing planting plans to suit different locations and soil types – always remembering that they need to look good and perform reliably. When winter flowers are needed, one of my favourite plants to design with is the hellebore or Lenten Rose.
These herbaceous perennials – Helleborus orientalis (not to be confused with the white Christmas Rose, Helleborus niger ) – are a revelation to those who think flowering perennials are just for summer. Hellebores bloom from the second half of January right through February and often come in delectable shades of plum, maroon, and dusky pink, although there are beautiful creamy yellows with speckled petals. The nodding, downward facing flowers need to be seen up close to be appreciated, so I often recommend them for raised beds close to the house, where they can be admired from indoors whatever the weather. They associate particularly well with snowdrops and other early bulbs and tolerate shade very well, so are great used in a woodland – type planting. The single or double blooms can be cut and floated in a bowl of water indoors for an unusual cut flower display.
Hellebores need next to no maintenance – just trim off the old, leathery leaves towards the end of the year to allow the new shoots and flowers to emerge in January. Rumour has it that they don’t like to be moved, but I’ve moved mine and got away with it and in terms of feeding, they just have a bit of what everyone else is having. Now’s a good time to find them in bloom in garden centres so snap them up while you have the chance. Mine have lasted 15 years and counting – so hooray for hellebores!
Anne Byrne Garden Design provides easy to follow Garden Plans that you can implement right away or in stages. Anne’s design flair and passion for plants brings a touch of magic to gardens of all sizes.
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