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Corsican Hellebore – Winter Rose

Helleborus argutifolius

Are you looking for a garden plant that offers summer colour to a rather grim looking Irish winter landscape?  Then what you need to plant are one or more of some 20 species of Helleboreae.

One such species of Hellebore is the Christmas Rose, (also known as Helleborus argutifolius or Helleborus corsicus) a holly-leaved Hellebore species of flowering plant, in the family Ranunculaceae; same native to Corsica and Sardinia. It is an evergreen perennial growing to an approximate height of 120 cm (47 in) by 90 cm (3 ft) wide, with large leathery dark grey-green leaves, each comprising of three spiny-toothed leaflets.

The blossoms, from this delightful, compact, heavy and handsome plant, come in the shape of green, bowl-shaped clusters, with the flower heads appearing to the viewer like a tightly grasped posy. The flowering heavily scented, flower heads appear in early December, thus giving it the obvious, well-chosen and common name of ‘Winter Rose’, with the delightful, apple-green coloured pendant cups; like wild rose blossoms,  surviving through winter and continuing to bloom well into late spring.

Once fully established, like all hellebores, they dislike being shunted about, so resist the temptation to divided them. However, given the right conditions, they will self-seed sufficiently to provide replacement plants. These seedlings, which should appear immediately at the base of the plant, can then be easily moved and planted successfully elsewhere, rarely blooming in their first year of planting.

This slow growing, deer and rabbit resistant plant, enjoys moist alkaline, acid or sandy soil, in light or mild shade, and is easily pruned back.  Like many of our common garden plants however, it should be noted that Helleborus argutifolius is poisonous.

[Note: Heliotrope plants symbolises eternal or undying love and so make for a most desirable gift to someone you love.]

(Several varieties of potted Hellebore are available and in bloom right now from O’Driscoll Garden Centre, Mill Road, Thurles, Co. Tipperary.)

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