That beautiful hellebore (aka Lenten Rose) that grace my garden in winter has a long, somewhat violent history. In one of the first recorded instances of biological warfare, the Grecian army used massive quantities of hellebores to poison the water supply of the city of Kirrha in 585 B.C. The townspeople were so overcome with gastric distress that they were unable to fight and the Grecian army easily overcame them.
Legend has it that the Greek leader who ordered the poisoning of the town was an ancestor of Hippocrates. It is said that Hippocrates was so horrified by this that he established the Hippocratic Oath in response.
Legend also says hellebores possibly poisoned Alexander the Great. Hellebore was traditionally used, in small doses, to treat gout, depression, even mental illness. Some say that Alexander was dealing with depression and could have accidentally overdosed. On the other hand, others suggest that he had many enemies who could have poisoned him.
However, in my yard, I’m more interested in the deer-proof qualities of this charming winter bloomer—(and vole-proof, squirrel-proof, etc.).
Hellebores Facts and Care
Hellebores are long-lived shade tolerant members of the Ranunculus family. This makes them cousins to anemones, columbines, and even buttercups, believe it or not. They have deeply divided dark green foliage and pretty nodding flowers lasting about eight weeks. While they prefer rich slightly-moist (never soggy) soil with a neutral pH, they adapt well to a wide variety of conditions. They do prefer dappled shade. They are particularly good under deciduous trees where they get dappled sun most of the year but full sun in the winter when the trees lose their leaves.
Some species hellebores can reseed quite well so if you don’t want that, you might want to remove the seed pods before they mature. The Orientalis hybrids are not usually a problem. Even though hellebores are considered deciduous, they will usually hold on to their leaves through the winter. You can remove them when new buds first appear, if desired.
How to Plant Hellebores
When planting nursery grown hellebores, plant them at exactly the same depth they were in the pot. Do not allow mulch to accumulate in the center of the plant.
Even though they are NOT a rose and many varieties do not bloom during Lent, they are still beautiful pest-proof winter bloomers for my garden.
Get Your Hellebores Now
We have this beautiful winter bloomer available right now at the Great Big Greenhouse. Stop by and let us help you select that “just right” variety to brighten your winter garden.