HELLEBORE or Christmas rose
Botanical name: Helleborus niger
In Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, South Australia
Native to the mountainous regions of Europe, Greece and Asia Minor, Helleborus niger is a member of the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family. It has pure white blossoms which bloom at Christmas time in the northern hemisphere, hence the common name Christmas Rose. Niger, the species name, means black, and refers to its dark coloured roots.
Hellebores are ideal for planting in drifts under trees, in terraced gardens or in pots. They are interesting cut flowers if picked when mature (immature flowers will wilt in a vase) and excellent to float in bowls. They last for weeks, slowly fading and changing colour. The flowers are attractive in winter when gardens often look bare. They are long flowering, but are not always valued as the flowers hang down and cannot be appreciated when viewed from above. The simple, 5-petalled, bowl-shaped flowers occur in unusual shades of green, dusky pink, and maroon, as well as white. At the centre of the flower are prominent, green, nectar-containing sacs and a number of yellow stamens. The flowers are backed by long-lasting petal-like sepals which often continue to intensify in colour and persist well after the flower has died.
I have a special memory of an artistic spray consisting of a camellia and hellebores backed with fine fern, oft given to my mother by a good friend when she came to visit – a special gift from a dear friend – all chosen from her stunning garden.
This week my friend from Switzerland sent photographs taken at Easter as she walked along the shoreline of Lake Constance. How did she know that this Post is about Hellebores? With her permission I include one of her photos.
Popularly known as wax flowers, the 200 species in this genus, a member of the milkweed (Asclepiadaceae) family, are mainly climbing evergreen plants which flower in the summer. They have dark green shiny foliage which forms an attractive backdrop for the exquisite waxy flowers. The blooms are usually white or pale shades of pink or red arranged in a star-upon-star formation of thick petals with a contrasting centre. They have a sweet perfume and drip sticky nectar. They resemble fine porcelain.
Hoyas can be propagated from cuttings. Knowing this I planted tip cuttings into small pots and settled the pots into the ground under a large ficus where they are enjoying filtered light. I have been rewarded with an expanse of twining lustrous leaves growing on my trellis. During this summer I have been intrigued to watch flowers develop from a small stalk on the runners. It is one flower best left to enjoy on the vine as next year’s flowering will come from the same place. By the way, the cuttings came from friends.
Hippeastrums are bold and brassy and their strong colours work particularly well in our bright Australian light. Blooms are large, flared trumpets in a dazzling range of colours. Clumped in the ground or in pots, a flamboyant display will bring cheer and happiness to the garden. Flowers are available in singles, doubles and miniatures. They range in colour from deep red to salmon pink, rose-pink, lemon, lime and clear white and some have contrasting stripes, petal edges or throats. Dark green sword shaped leaves usually appear just after the flowers. Hippeastrums will grow anywhere in Australia. My pot of Hippeastrums has special memories as it was a gift from a friend more than 10 years ago and it has moved with me to my present small cottage garden.