The Handy Hellebore

Another easy plant (in the right spot) is the Hellebore. I got my hybrid for $5 at the local high-end garden center--so high-end it's unfortunately advertised as a "garden and lifestyle design center"--the plant was marked down 75% because it was done blooming for the year and they needed to unload it quickly. First rule of the garden center business: if it's out of bloom it won't sell. Not that there's anything wrong with that--I got it for 75% off, didn't I?

A very easy plant for shade or dappled shade or mostly shade, provided the snails don't find it. And it reseeds, so you get more very easy plants for free:

Hellebores bloom here when not much else is growing. Flower color varies from a green-tinged white to muted pinks and muddy mauves. More refined hybrids have brighter, more pure coloration, but I like the soft dull colors just as they are. The foliage is deep green and a bit glossy with an interesting palmate structure:

It's a fairly compact grower, so it fits into odd spots, but can also fill quite an area if allowed to prosper and reseed. Care consists of a modest amount of irrigation, deadheading when it's done blooming, and tugging off the old leaves in late fall, which prepares the plant for a new round of fresh foliage and bloom in late winter.

It's not a breathtaking, traffic stopping, Oh-Wow-I-Want-That kind of plant. It's a plant of down-home virtues: friendly, steady, undemanding as an old, beloved pet. We all love the Oh-Wows, but the Steady-Reliables are an important part of a good garden, too.


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