Next to Prim Roses on the porch, nothing signals the start of a new gardening season like my blooming Helleborus. Every Puget Sound garden needs at least one.
In its fifth spring, my Helleborus throws out a sizable cluster of reddish-pink blooms along the back fence of my West Seattle garden. This variety is called the Lenten Rose, and it appropriately starts blooming in the middle of February. The flowers are in peak form for six weeks, but dry nicely and hold their distinctive shape. I usually prune the flowers around the Fourth of July.
The big Helleborus bonus is big dark green evergreen leaves that form by early summer. Leaves will stand tall in the summer, but will droop in winter. I give the plant a leaf cut in early February right before the next blooming cycle. Another big bonus is Helleborus tolerate dry and shady conditions.
Helleborus come in many varieties that differ in color and shape. They thrive in shade with a little sun, and beware: plants and flowers are poisonous. In the gallery below, the second variety grows in the Beacon Hill garden. I like varieties with smaller flowers, as the big blooms can cause severe and not-so-pretty drooping.
Since they bloom early, Helleborus go on sale early. I might snag another for the front. If I get it in the ground by summer, it should bloom nicely next winter.