The spectacular Hellebore lights up the hibernating winter garden with its dark green leaves and radiant flowers.
Colours and shapes
The Hellebore is also known by the beautiful name of Christmas rose. Between November and March the plant produces large, flat flowers with a beautiful crown at their heart. The leaves are dark green, sometimes with slightly grey film, and feel a bit leathery. Alongside the white version, there are also other colours, such as those of the Helleborus orientalis. This garden plant produces flowers that range from white, yellow and apricot through to pink, dark purple and spotted.
The Christmas rose is unaffected by snow or frost. Although the plant will droop down during cold snaps, it recovers of its own accord when the temperatures rise again, and will carry on flowering. It's happy growing both in flowerbeds and in pots and containers. Despite the name rose, the plant is actually a member of the ranunculus family
According to Christian legend, the first Christmas rose is said to have appeared in Bethlehem from the tears of a poor shepherd. He had no gift for the baby Jesus, but the appearance of the Christmas rose meant that he could still give him flowers.
Hellebore plays a role in many folktales. In the Middle Ages, people scattered the flowers on the floor of their houses in order to keep evil spirits away. They blessed their animals with the Christmas rose, but also believed that witches used the plants for their curses and that wizards used it to make themselves invisible.
Hellebore grows wild in the mountainous regions of central and southern Europe and Asia Minor. The first known mention of the plant dates from 1400 BC, when the physician Melampus mentioned it in his writings. The plant travelled to the United States with immigrants, where it came to symbolise pioneering and survival. The name Helleborus derives from the Greek words ‘helein’ (kill) and ‘bora’ (food): a warning that the plant is poisonous.