Spring Colour? – Here Come the Hellebores! (and a few others as well…)

by susan on March 13, 2013

It’s definitely that time of year once again, here on the West Coast of British Columbia to really start to get excited about our gardens. We have had an unusually mild winter, although it has certainly been very wet… but that is what we are known for, isn’t it?

My own gardens have now got about 80 Hellebores which are all starting to burst out, together with other lovely colours of the amazing Bergenia, the Heucheras, Skimmias and, of course, the Sorbaria. I will show you a few of the colourful plants that are now blooming in my gardens all around the house.

Of course, I am very partial to the Hellebores. Below, you can see what is coming up now at the edges of what I call the ‘Blue Garden’ which has quite a number of ‘blue’ conifers, from which it gets its name. The first image is of this garden in February, viewed from the street.

The 'Blue' Garden

The east side of the 'Blue' Garden

Beginnings in February...



A Rather Young Hellebore


These mainly white- coloured Hellebores do not have all that much pure colour, but they certainly become a focus in the quiet, somewhat dark, winter garden. Many of mine are coming up near evergreens which provide a very nice backdrop for their brightness.


A 'Light in the Forest'...


Notice the Centre


Many of these Hellebores have what I describe as an ‘Elizabethan Collar”. Some are absolutely frilly and coloured, but you really have to get down on your knees to actually see and appreciate it. A better way is to plant your Hellebores at the top of a stairway, or somewhere that you can look up into their lovely ‘faces’. Some of the newer varieties are now being propagated to have the flowers sit more upright. You can see what I mean with this next photo, although it is a different type of Hellebore but still more upright than the older types. This one, below, was given to us by dear friends in ‘Nicky’s’ memory. I have not yet decided exactly where I shall plant it but it will definitely be where we can see and appreciate it whenever we look outside.

Below, you can see this very lovely Hellebore that has flowers which are much more upright. It is a beautiful specimen, and we were so very glad to get it.


A Gift for ‘Nicky’…

A Gift for 'Nicky'


In a shady garden or on a dull day, ( read most of the winter here, on the Coast) white flowers are always the best to use as they draw your eyes right in to focus on the brightness. Below, you can see more of these ‘lights’.


Another 'Light'...


Hellebore at Garden's Edge


The Strong Pinks of a Double Hellebore

This particular Hellebore is quite new to my gardens. I think that this is only its third year, here. Each year the plants put out more and more flowers, if they have been planted where they are happy. I have one Hellebore that I have been growing for more than 10 years and it produces a very large and showy clump of pale pink flowers every year.



More Winter Colours – Sorbaria, Bergenia and others…
Although the flowers of the Hellebores have got to be the most appreciated, still there are several other plants that can provide colour in these sometimes dreary months. Below, are the interesting leaves of the Helleborus argutifolius, together with the blue of the Euphorbia myrsinites ‘Donkey’s Tail (Spurge).

The leaves of this Helleborus argutifolius, together with the blue Euphorbia myrsinites 'Donkey's Tail' (Spurge) provide interesting texture, as well as colour, in the winter garden.


One of the best plants for any season is the Bergenia cordifolia. Not only does it provide the garden with great colour all through the winter, sometimes turning almost fire engine red, it also puts out beautiful flowers in the spring. One problem, however….. these flowers seem to be ‘deer candy’…..!!


Bergenia's red-tinged leaves work well with the red buds of the Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'


Yellow leaves of an Acorus provide a bright spot of colour, all through the year.


This Acorus gramineus gives a cheery greeting to all who may be passing by on the street. It is one of the easiest plants to grow and the only downside is, that you must groom it in the spring and ‘comb out’ all of the old leaves. This is not so hard to do if you put on a pair of gloves that have those rubber gripping palms and then just pull through the leaves. Nothing seems to bother it in my gardens.


If you have large boulders in any of your gardens, make sure that they have plenty of soil all around the bottom of them. A large stone should look as if it has been buried, and as if it is just pushing up out of the ground, not as if some giant had just dropped it into your garden!! And, if you have any that are in some shade, you should be able to coax some moss or lichen to grow and give you this bright green colour in the colder weather.


Lichen and moss add bright colour all through the winter


And finally, here is a most beautiful plant, but….. be warned! It can become invasive, and so, I would suggest that you plant it in a large planter and make sure that the roots are not coming out of the drain hole and into your garden proper! But, just look at this colour, at this time of year!! It is really a treat to see the bright new growth. This is the Sorbaria sorbifolia.


MY GARDENING TIP:  Whenever I am not really sure how a new (at least new to me…) plant will perform, I grow it on for a while, either in the pot that I bought it in or potted on, into a slightly larger plain black pot. And then, I watch it! If I see that it is starting, rather quickly, to put up new shoots everywhere, especially near the edges of the pot, I know that it is one that ‘wants to escape!!’ Take heed, and only grow this one in a pot, and do not let it get into your garden…. or you may regret it.


The very beautiful Sorbaria sorbifolia... but can be invasive. Be warned!

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