Anything but a Bore

All the sun we’ve had recently has me chomping at the bit here on Main street, ready to get the hip, non-hipster gardening season off the muddy ground. There are some harbingers of spring around the garden cheering me on; from witch hazel in full bloom to hellebores pushing flower buds, we are getting close!

The Hellebore genus consists of perhaps twenty some species in the buttercup family. The species are split into two basic groups: caulescent (with stem) and acaulescent (without stem). The genus comes from two Greek words helein, meaning injures or destroys, and bora, meaning food. 

The best example of the caulescent hellebore is Helleborus foetidus, or stinking hellebore. The name alone makes it a wonderful addition to the garden! Fetid (foetidus) hellebore flowers and crushed foliage can give off a rather pungent odor. Personally, I like the visual interest the hellebore’s dark evergreen foliage brings to the winter landscape.

The most common of the acaulescent hellebores is Helleborus x hybridus, or hybrid lenten rose. It is often misnamed Helleborus orientalis, as few hellebore sold today are oriental species, but rather are a complex mishmash of several acaulescent species.

I love this hybrid group for several reasons, including:

  • Early season bloom (February into May)
  • Long blooming
  • Very cold resistant
  • Often evergreen 
  • Deer resistant
  • Low maintenance

During your next visit to Wellfield, see if you can spot Hellebore ‘White Lady,’ H. foetidus, among others at the Gardens, as they open to future sun-shiny days.

Josh Steffen, Horticulture and Facilities Manager

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