Helleborus x hybridus ‘White Duchess’
WHITE LENTEN ROSE
Snow white singles blooms sparkle through winter on Helleborus x hybridus ‘White Duchess’.
Bone hardy & charming
Because they are such a bone hardy, good old fashioned standbys, no garden should be without Helleborus.
They are foolproof, frost hardy, and well able to cope with periods of dry once established.
Winter blooms under trees and shrubs
And there is nothing more charming than the cheerful sparkling white blooms in the middle of winter.
They also look wonderful interplanted with daffodils, as they all carry on together into spring.
Helleborus x hybridus ‘White Duchess’ blooms for months.
Perfect solution for Shade
Helleborus love to nestle under trees and shrubs, where they come into their glory during the winter and into spring.
Then they are no trouble to have filling the space with their evergreen handsome leaves for the rest of the year.
They are especially valuable in Dry Shade areas, and are masters of what is often a difficult spot under big trees.
So they are a splendid sight planted in drifts under established deciduous trees.
And a drift of Helleborus x hybridus ‘White Duchess’ is pure elegance.
Easy low care
Once established under trees or shrubs, Helleborus are the “ants pants” of easy, low care, minimal maintenance plants.
An annual shear of the foliage in late autumn/ early winter, to freshen it up, is just about the only thing a busy gardener can find to do.
Excellent cut flowers
I love to gather all the myriad of colours and forms of my Helleborus flowers, and float them face up in a bowl filled with water. It is one of the treats of winter. They smile up at you and last for ages displayed like this.
Or you can cut armloads of bunches for a vase.
But there is a trick to getting them to hold their heads up in a vase.
The professional florists tell is to first cut your stems, than plunge them into boiling hot water up to their necks for 30 seconds, then pop them straight into cold water.
Good luck – I just like to see them gazing up at me from a decorative bowl.
– Height with flowers: Large branching heads of flowers on 45cm. approx stems. So they ride high and proud above the dark green foliage.
– Width: Evergreen clump to approx. 45cm. diameter.
Hardy under trees and shrubs
– Position: Deep Shade to 1/2 Shade. Dappled light under trees and shrubs is perfect. They are able to cope well with Dry Shade once they have found their feet and established.
They are also very tolerant of air pollution, so are often used in busy city locations.
– Soil: As natural born woodland plants, they of course enjoy the composty, leaf litter conditions normally found under trees and shrubs. However they are not all that fussy about soil types, or acid or alkaline, as long as they have reasonable drainage. Except sandy soils will require the addition of compost. They dislike being waterlogged, so heavy soils can be made acceptable by the addition of some gravel. Otherwise, Hellebores are really forgiving and obliging.
– Fragrance: While some Hellebores are fragrant, ‘White Duchess’ is not, and relies on her pristine winter good looks instead.
– Frost: Hellebores are completely unfazed by frost and will happily bloom through snow.
– Growth: Evergreen perennial clump of handsome foliage and long blooming winter flowers. What more could you ask? They even oblige with a steady stream of baby seedlings in woodland conditions. So they will create their own drifts. However they are not invasive, and can be easily weeded out if you don’t happen to want a drift there.
– Beneficial for wildlife: You only have to marvel at the hybrid vigour and variety of the seedlings, to know that bees have had a whale of a time visiting the parent flowers. The long winter blooming period and prolific flowering makes them especially valuable for bees and other beneficial pollinators.
– Care: Low maintenance and easy “no fuss” plants. If you are determined to be busy, then an annual shear of the old foliage during late autumn / early winter freshens things up for flower display, and then a dressing with compost or mulch after flowering pampers them.
– Be aware: While all parts of Helleborus are toxic if eaten in large quantities, mercifully they taste very bitter and burn the lips. So any foragers are highly likely to spit it out, unlikely to take a second nibble, and will have a hard time eating enough to do damage.
– Deer & Rabbit resistant: That bitter taste also deters rabbits and deer from munching. Somehow they seem to know it is not going to be nice..
A peep into history
– Origin: ‘White Duchess’ is a garden cultivar, but originates from plants found in the wild in Greece, Turkey and through the Caucasus region. Hence its hardiness and ability to cope with tough conditions.
The botanical name Helleborus comes from a combination of two ancient Greek words – “bora” means “food” and “helein” means “injures”. So obviously telling us not to eat it.
While the common name of “Lenten Rose” comes of course from the plant’s ability to bloom during Lent (or at least in the northern hemisphere – Antipodeans like us prefer to call the “Winter Roses”)
Ancient gardening advice
The legends and folklore associated with hellebores are rich, and fanciful.
Dioscorides, the ancient Greek healer, proposed a purge with Helleborus could cure madness. The tricky bit was getting the dose right apparently.
Others suggested powdered Hellebore could render you invisible.
While Pliny the Elder advised that digging up Hellebores would so anger eagles that they would attack you.
His remedy for the eagle problem was to first draw a circle on the ground around the plant, face east, and offer a prayer before digging, but only on sunny days.
Thank heavens Hellebores are quite capable of just getting on with it alone.