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At BGO winter can be many “shades of brown”, but you will find winter interest in all corners of the garden. Though spring is still weeks away, a few perennials push the season and are starting to bloom. Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) is one of these early bloomers and would be one to add to your winter garden for a winter bloom of interest. Because many of the plants sold as Lenten rose are hybrids or seedlings, the bloom time can range from late December to early April.

This long lived semi-evergreen perennial is a member of the buttercup family and is native to northern Greece and southern Turkey. It grows to 18 inches tall with coarse textured, deep green leaves that arise from an underground rhizome. 

As flower stems emerge from the ground, a new set of leaves emerge as well. Trim off last year’s winter tattered leaves at that time. The flowering stem is erect and terminates in a cluster of branches, each bearing three to five nodding flowers. Many new hybrids have a range of flower colors to choose from. The individual blooms are to 2 ½ inches across and have numerous prominent stamens in the center of the flower. Because the showy portion of the flower are sepals, they persist for six to eight weeks. But during this long period of bloom, color changes. The white flowered forms become more greenish; the pink ones age to deep rose and tan.

All parts of the Lenten rose are poisonous, but there is nothing about the plant likely to tempt children to graze on it. Because of its toxic foliage, it’s one of the best deer-proof plants offered in the nursery trade.

Hellebores are ideal plants for the shade garden because they form evergreen masses and form large, long lasting colonies that persist for years. They tolerate dry shade quite well. If the plant is in a good site, expect it to reseed and increase the size of the colony.

Be sure to drop by BGO to find our collection of Lenten roses along the creek path.

Berni Kurz, Director of Horticulture