with Heather Hunter
Hellebores and more
The thing about Hellebores is their bloom time. A friend had lovely white flowers showing up beside her front verandah in Toronto in January this year. This was remarkable, but in any year, as soon as the snow is off the plant you see the fat Hellebore buds nestled into last year’s leaves, ready to take off when the time is right – and that time comes very early. The early bloom is the reason they are called Lenten Rose, or Christmas Rose in England, where they just might be blooming at Christmas time.
John’s Garden in Uxbridge, owned by John Statham, won Platinum in The 2020 Toronto Star Reader’s Choice Awards for Garden Centres, coming second only to Sheridan Nurseries. John carries lots of Hellebores.
As a garden centre, John’s Garden is unique. It’s in a forest, at the end of a long, tortuous driveway (off Conc. 7, south of town). Laid out under the trees is a vast array of plants that love shade – hostas, ferns, rhododendrons, azaleas, just to name a few. At the end of that trail through the woods you come to a sunny open meadow, where the sun-loving plants – grasses, perennials, ground covers, shrubs and young trees, reside. John specializes in grasses and in Hellebores.
Hellebores are perennials that originated in south and east Europe. Hellebore flowers not only come early, but last much longer than other spring bloomers such as daffodils, tulips and hyacinths.The Hellebore flowers, which can be white, cream, pink, dark purple or even green, will sometimes last for weeks and months. And when the flowers are finished, the leathery dark green leaves are beautiful in their own right.
John suggests Hellebores do best with morning sun or dappled shade – orientalis types (with larger leaves, nodding flowers) like average to moist soil, but will do well in total shade on the drier side. It’s good to grow these somewhere elevated if possible, so you can enjoy the gorgeous flowers that face downwards.
Upright flower types prefer to have some sun, and average to dry conditions. Their need for moisture depends on how much sun they are getting. They do need shelter from strong cold winds.
Hellebores are very effective when grown in groups in a shrub border, or in a woodland setting. They will self-seed, so one or two plants might become a grouping in couple of years.