Photo © Bulleen Art & Garden

The hellebore, or Winter Rose as it is commonly called, adds charm and elegance to any garden. Their nodding flowers provide winter cheer throughout winter and on into early spring. The colours vary from white, green, pink to my personal favourite… black; with loads of and varying shades in between. The flowers also come in multi-coloured, spotted, double and single forms. If you have a spot in the garden that needs a lift in these cold months then look no further, the hellebore could be the star attraction you are looking for.

Hellebores can grow in most soils, the exception being very sandy soil where they may struggle to thrive. The addition of compost in all soils will be beneficial. They require a shady position with protection from the harsh summer sun. The more winter sun they are exposed to the better for those gorgeous flowering and optimal growth. The ideal location would be under deciduous trees.

They are relatively easy to grow, just a little maintenance and they will reward. Cut off damaged brown dead leaves in autumn to the ground. Use a complete fertiliser in autumn and apply manure or compost in early winter keeping it away from the crown. Late autumn or winter is the best time to move or divide an existing clump – noting that only Helleborus x hybridus can be divided. Aphids are the main pest of hellebores; the best way of dealing with them is hosing them off with a hose, use a home made soap spray or a horticultural oil such as eco-oil. Hellebores being tough and forgiving will thrive in a cold winter, tolerate frost and drought, and dislike high humidity, so perfect for Melbourne.

Available hellebores are Hellebores hybridus, Hellebores orientalis, Hellebores foetidus and Hellebores niger. Hellebores hybridus will reach up to 60cm and are one of the toughest varieties. They cope with frost, hot summers and winter rains that would rot some of the fussier species. Hellebores foetidus has deeply cut foliage and flower in late winter with displays that last for weeks.