Grow these early perennials for dramatic foliage as well as flowers
From December into March Christmas and Lenten roses lift our gardens with their considerable floral charms. While the development of stronger, clearer colours and flower shape grab most of the headlines, alongside has been a quieter, but no less important revolution in patterned foliage, a feature that endures long after blooms are over.
Colourations span mottling and flecking, silvering and marbling of veins, to silvering of the whole leaf surface. A number of different species and hybrids are involved, each with its own particular character in terms of habit and the way the flowers are formed and held, some on stout stems also supporting leaves, others on multiple slender stems from the rootstock.
Their foliage is evergreen or semi-evergreen, selected for durability and visual impact, significantly boosting their usefulness in the garden. Blooms tend to have a quieter charm than those specifically bred for their flowers, spanning white, cream and lime-green, to dusky pinks and bronze tones, often changing colour as they age. This said they have a presence that complements, rather than competes with or detracts from the foliage. Many have outward facing blooms, rather than pendant or nodding as with large proportion of H. hybridus varieties.
The hellebores listed are easy and rewarding to grow, but take care to provide H. sternii‘Silver Dollar’ with a warmer, sheltered spot to keep it in good condition. They will luxuriate in dappled or semi-shade, in most moist, well-drained soils rich in organic matter. Avoid those prone to drought or are waterlogged in winter. To keep these hellebores looking their best prune away older foliage as new leaves emerge and remove spent flower stems in late spring and feed with a balanced general purpose fertiliser.
Here’s our list of the best varieties to try. Click the images to find out more…