You'd never expect that delicate flower to bloom in the depths of winter, would you? Actually, we'd probably never notice how beautiful hellebores are if they flowered in summer when so much else is happening
But these sturdy perennials put on a show in the dead of winter. And their flowers are so varied, long-lasting and nearly indestructible that at times, when they pop up above a snow drift, you're sure they're bionic. .
First to bloom are Helleborus niger, which have large, snowy white blooms with a fluff of yellow anthers. I've always thought of them as snow anemones, but their real nickname is "Christmas rose". If you're new to growing hellebores, wait a bit for the hybrids, for they're more dependable performers than H. niger, and they come in colors from white through darkest purple, and many have adorable freckled faces.
One of my favorite hellebores, and its blooming in nurseries now if not yet in the ground, is Helleborus 'Ivory Prince' (above) with lots of pink and lavender flushed blossoms that persist for weeks. The gray-green, pale-veined leaves are nearly as pretty as the flowers. They mound up about a foot-and-a-half high, and like full sun or partial shade.
Plant a few 'Ivory Princes' in a pot by the door to greet guests and cheer you up every time you get home, or mix them in with the darker flowered hybrids for contrast, for their silvery leaves really show off nearby purple flowers which can otherwise disappear into the landscape. Hellebores are fabulous cut flowers if you split the stem up a bit so they can guzzle plenty of water. Or just snip off the flowers and float them in a bowl of water - especially eye-catching if you grow a variety of flower colors.
Here's 'Ivory Prince' in bud - aren't those red stems stunning?
And here are a few of the colorful hybrid hellebores you'll find in the nurseries in January....