Plant of the month - hellebores for early colour

Seeing hellebores shoot up from bare soil is one of the great joys of the winter months.  They come in a gorgeous range of subtle hues from whites and apple greens to dusky pinks and dark purples, that combine well together in drifts and with other pretty woodlanders such as pulmonaria, cyclamen and ferns.  Plant them where you can see them from a window on a cold day or next to a path.

Most hellebores like dappled shade so in sunnier aspects you can use them to underplant a deciduous tree or large shrub.  Prune off last year’s old foliage in January to show off the new buds and flowers as they grow.  Most hellebores are Helleborus x hybridus  (H. orientalis).  The colour can be pot luck but they’re generally pink-hued.  The lovely early flowering Helleborus niger (Harvington Hellebores) is a beautiful dainty hellebore with crisp white flowers and golden stamens – perfect for Christmas.  Helleborus x hybridus Harvington Red is an attractive deep purple.  Helleborus x hybridus ‘Yellow Lady’ (Lady Series) is a pretty yellow variety that looks lovely with with blues and mauves. 

For colour, Helleborus ‘Penny’s Pink’ (Rodney Davey Marbled Group) has large flowers from late winter to mid spring above marbled foliage.  H. Anna’s Red’, which is named after renowned plantswoman Anna Pavord, has masses of reddish-purple flowers.  For evergreen texture, H. foetidus is a larger variety with masses of bell-shaped pale green flowers and architectural palm-like dark green leaves.  H. argutifolius is another hellebore that is useful for its handsome serrated evergreen leaves and pale green clusters of flowers, and which will give your garden evergreen interest and structure all year round.