Hellebore blooms and seedlings

In this unusually warm winter the hellebores in the garden began to flower early in January. By late in the month, and now early in February most are in full bloom. In most years hellebores flower late in February in my garden with the blooms lasting for a month or longer, fading as temperatures turn warmer. Today, after a month a few flowers are past their peak, but in even the warmest February temperatures I expect the blooms will persist for a few weeks longer than is usual.

I can barely recall which of the hellebores I planted and the ones that are seedlings that have popped up. Most of the seedlings stay close where the seeds have dropped near the parent plants, but some seeds are swept away by rain or wind to germinate under the brush pile or in the deep leaf litter that accumulates in the brambles just before the small creek that borders the garden. Many of these have been transplanted to the cultivated part of the garden so they can be enjoyed as a part of the garden rather than remaining partially hidden in the surrounding woodland.

It hardly matters which of the hellebores are named cultivars or chance seedlings since there are minimal differences in their growth habit, foliage, or flowers. There are subtle differences in the coloration or veining patterns of the blooms of similar plants, but the differences are slight enough to be barely noticeable.

Each year I add a few new hellebores, and the newest introductions are much improved with new colors, but mostly with flowers that stand upright. Most older hellebores’ flowers nod downward so they must be lifted to be seen.

The foliage of hellebores often becomes ragged by late winter, so I prune it off carefully to avoid damaging the flowers and emerging leaves. With flowers in early January this year (and mild temperatures) the foliage is unblemished except for a few leaves that have browned in the cold of the past two weeks. I will not cut the older leaves this year except any that turn brown by early spring, and I expect that the new leaves will grow through and cover any that are slightly worn. With a full head of foliage the flowers stand out slightly less than if I had cut the leaves to the ground, but the blooms stand just above the leaves so they’re not hidden.

I’ve been delighted to have flowers through this winter. The blooms of winter jasmine, witch hazels, and hellebores are not damaged by periods of cold temperatures, and rather than venturing out in the garden to anxiously catch the first signs of buds opening, I’ve enjoyed this odd season of winter blooms.

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