Predictably, I failed to remove the foliage from hellebores before the flower buds swelled in late December, and now they are covered by many inches of wet snow. By mid January the buds were prominent, and there have been times when the hellebores flowered from late December until March. But, temperatures have been far too cold this winter, and even before fourteen inches of snow fell a few days ago I was not expecting any flowers until late in February, at the earliest.
Once the flower buds are prominent, the foliage is removed with more difficulty. In recent mild winters there was little reason to remove the hellebores’ foliage, other than that the blooms become much easier to see without the large leaves in the way. But this year, after weeks of prolonged cold, much of the leathery foliage is brown, and the leaves must be removed before new growth emerges.
With a thick cover of snow, the hellebores will not see sunlight again for another week, and even with much warmer temperatures this shaded side of the garden might take a few days longer than that to melt. If past experience counts for anything, I expect that the hellebores will flower soon after the snow is gone. The lack of sun while covered by snow does not seem to delay the flowering much, or at all, and of course the plants are insulated from cold temperatures while the snow remains.
None of this is unusual for me. Cutting the leaves as the flowers emerge in mid to late February has become my routine, and the exception is when I perform this relatively simple task two months earlier, when temperatures are more suitable for outdoor chores. The end result is the same, but in February the task requires a bit more attention to avoid unintentionally cutting flower buds while grabbing a handful of leaves.
To add to the labor, there are now a few dozen additional hellebores that were planted in the past year. Certainly, this is not a complaint, and I very much look forward to their blooms in a few weeks. I have plans to add to the collection this year. Some will be transplants, dividing thick clumps that are partially original plantings combined with seedlings, and others will be new varieties that catch my eye.
Unfortunately, I’ve been horrible at maintaining records of what I’ve planted, which is commonplace for me, and only a problem when I have difficulty recommending one superb plant over another. But, I haven’t run into a hellebore that is less than exceptional, so you should be encouraged to purchase as many of any variety that your budget can afford.