Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Lenten Roses...

Virtually the first out this spring, and yet still going strong many weeks later are the wonderful Lenten Roses. Although their beautiful unfolding flowers may resemble roses, the Helleborus x orientalis hybrids are really members of the buttercup family.




These hardy perennials have nodding, two-inch wide, open flowers in every shade. From near black and deepest purples, through reds, pinks and creams to whites. Their interiors are often attractively speckled, flushed or edged, and with a complex central mass of stamens are breathtaking in detail. Newer varieties include showy double and semi-double forms too. 



These well behaved clump formers have remarkably tough, shiny leaves and will thrive in many difficult situations, even in dryish shade. They make good undemanding ground cover and their evergreen leaves last the full year round.


Interestingly, what we take for their colourful petals, are botanically the more leaf-like and longer lasting ‘sepals’. After pollination, and as spring moves on into summer, these sepals don’t fall, but fade back to green and stay on to help protect and nurture the developing seeds. 


As an added bonus, this seed does easily germinate around them, giving anyone the chance to raise new hybrids, or perhaps share the surplus with friends. So spreading a little of these hellebore’s especially long lasting spring appeal...

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