Most successful amateur and professional landscapers strive to create landscapes that are interesting and attractive year-round. It may not seem quite as easy to find plants to include in your landscape that are interesting during the winter months, but there are many plants which bloom during the colder months and bring much needed color to our largely dormant landscapes. One of my favorite winter-blooming plants is the hellebore, or Lenten rose.
Bloom color ranges from white to pink to purple to red, with nearly every shade in between represented. The individual blooms are cup shaped and arise from the tip of each stem. Blooms are incredibly long-lasting and while the color may fade from the start of bloom to the finish, that dynamic color change is itself interesting to watch. The glossy green foliage complements the flowers well, and because the flowers are borne at the tips, the dense foliage does not typically obscure them. Often times the cup shaped flowers will point downward, in which case I suppose they more accurately resemble a bell than a cup, but they are still quite easy to find when in full bloom.
Helleborus foetidus is a fabulous landscaping plant.
There are two many cultivars and varieties of Lenten rose to name, but the Ice N’ Roses and Frostkiss series are particularly popular. I enjoy the Frostkiss series for the prominence of the veins on each leaf, which gives the plants an almost variegated appearance.
Lenten roses are generally pest-free and quite hardy, though you may need to clean up old foliage from time to time to keep the plants looking their best. They will occasionally get crown rot in wet soils, or leaf spot if too much moisture accumulates on their leaves, so erring on the dry side is usually best.
On January 27, the Pitt County Extension Master Gardener volunteers will be hosting their annual speaker’s event, featuring retired Virginia Zoo Landscape Coordinator Marie Mims Butler. This yearly event is always a popular gathering for gardening enthusiasts! Tickets are now on sale at the Pitt County Cooperative Extension office and at Wild Birds Unlimited in Greenville.
Matthew Stevens is the County Extension Director and horticulture agent for North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s Pitt County Center. If you have any questions about this article or other aspects of your home gardening, please contact the Pitt County Master Gardener Infoline at 252-902-1705.
Photos and information found at NC extension Gardener Plant Toolbox: