The name Hellebore comes from the Greek words for ‘injure’ and ‘food’ as the plant and its flowers are poisonous. But like many poisonous plants, they are also very beautiful (is there a connection to Helen of Troy?)
This week to join in with Cathy from Rambling in the Garden’s In A Vase on Monday meme, I have taken flowers from the three hellebores I planted in our front garden last year. The plants are still quite small, so I could only spare one bloom from each, which I have placed in a delicate white porcelain bowl given to us for our tenth wedding anniversary last year by our lovely friend Oriana. Our anniversary fell in the middle of a heat wave, so it seems apt that I have finally got around to using the bowl on one of the coldest days of the year so far. Here it is again in front of a faded reproduction of Titian’s ‘The Bacchanal of the Andrians’, which reflects the fleshy beauty of the flowers.
As Sarah Raven suggests, before putting them in the bowl, I sealed the stems of the hellebore flowers in boiling water. I bought my hellebores from our local seasonal nursery Woodruff’s Yard, which will open again in the spring. I think they are Helleborus niger and Helleborus orientalis, the Christmas rose and Lenten rose, although I have lost the labels. Of course they are not related to roses at all, but are members of the buttercup family. ‘Niger’ means black in Latin and refers to the roots, rather than the snowy white flowers.
Vita Sackville-West writes that hellebores like a cool place shaded by shrubs and do not like being disturbed, adding that you will have to wait a couple of years before they do very much about flowering. Mine are planted underneath roses, a Phlomis russelliana and a Spirea, so quite shaded. Next year I hope for lots more blooms, and when the soil warms up a bit I am going to add some pale yellow primroses beside them and maybe some of the stinking hellebore (Helleborus foetidus)
To find out what winter wonders others have come up with for this week’s IAVOM, pop over to Rambling in the Garden.