In the depths of winter a little splash of colour is most welcome and there’s a reliable hellebore that does the job splendidly, giving a carpet of pink to brighten the scene.
Pretty pink, nodding flowers stand a few inches above the ground, paired with leaves that look like splayed out fingers on a hand.
Helleborus Walberton's Rosemary
is a reasonably tall cultivar that will grow to about 40cm, and some of the nodding flowers are happy to look up at the adoring gaze of the gardener or passer-by. This, paired with its early flowering, is why it is so popular. It’s a clump-forming perennial that is semi-evergreen and is in flower for ages!
Botanically speaking, the “flowers” have colourful sepals rather than petals that protect the flower, and what were the petals have evolved into nectaries. This is great news for early foraging insects such as bees, attracted by the nectar to the pollen. Hellebores are able to provide pollen for up to three weeks, even in damp weather. After pollination, the seed heads stick around, giving the appearance of flowers for even longer (as the sepals fade in colour but remain in place).
We love growing hellebores
under larger plants or in dark places – they’re usefully shade-tolerant, but equally happy in full sun. At Wisley you can find a bed full of them on our Winter Walk, where they are currently in flower beneath a sweetly scented Chimonanthus praecox
‘Luteus’ and an Ailanthus altissima
. It’s a sunny-ish spot at this time of year, before the canopy of foliage appears. Give them moist, fertile, humus-rich soil and they should thrive.
Another great feature of this plant is its versatility. We have areas of container planting for winter displays, and Helleborus Walberton’s Rosemary
is a truly attractive addition to the repertoire. This is a superb hellebore – one of many – and simple to cultivate. A worthy addition to any garden.