Every garden has hellebores, every garden centre has hellebores and from now on until late winter almost every magazine and TV programme is championing hellebores. Rightly so, they are beautiful. The problem is there are now so many different kinds (nearly 4 pages in the RHS Plant Finder) that it is perplexing to know which variety to grow and where to grow it .
There are hellebores for just about every situation in the garden and sometimes they will give you a surprise and self seed in the most unlikely places such as cracks in paving, gravel drives or even rough grass. Here are some recommendations.
1. Almost Anywhere: Helleborus x hybridus (the Lenten Rose).
These are the plants that everyone grows and for good reason, they come in a vast array of colours and in single, anemone centred and double flowered form. Sometimes they have fancy names like Onyx Odyssey, a gorgeous double black, some with simple names like Primrose Flowered. The Ashwood Garden Hybrids and the Winter Jewels collection are especially collectable. These are best in good soil in partial or dappled shade and will grow in a sunny border as long as the soil is moisture retentive. They have a tendency to self seed and give seedlings in a wildly unpredictable range of colours and forms.
2. Dry Shade: Helleborus x nigercors
This is a vigorous plant, a hybrid from H. Niger (Lenten Rose) and H. argutifolius (Corsican hellebore). It has bold evergreen foliage, wonderful for flower arranging and white flowers that fade to green. It is very resilient and will grow well in dry shade especially if watered and fed after planting to help settle in. H.foetidus (stinking hellebore) is another one and is often found self seeded.
3. Sunny Containers: Helleborus x sternii Blackthorn Group
This hybrid between sun-loving parent species native to Corsica and Majorca, was developed for two key qualities, its neat habit, little more than 12 inches and its evergreen pewter foliage which is veined in silver. It also has green flowers flushed with pink carried on purple stems in late winter. Another to try is H x ericsmithii.
4. Shady Containers
Winter Moonbeam is a delight and also try Anna's Red. This might need a large pot because of the huge root system.
5. Cold Greenhouse
Helleborus lividus flowers at the chilliest time of year and is less hardy than other hellebores. It is ideal for a terracotta pot in a cold greenhouse or porch.
6. Stone Walls
Helleborus foetidus can be nurtured on the shady side of a wall. On the sunny side you could try H. argutifolius.
I hope I have set you on the hellebore trail. Look out for Kapunda Plants, a garden that is open February to March near Bath. It's a hellebore heaven !