Like many shade gardeners, I am in love with hellebores. They start flowering in March (or earlier) and some stay in bloom right into May. Deer, though not a problem for me, hate them; it’s easy to figure out why—just grab a handful of the plant’s sharp, raspy foliage. After bloom, the foliage provides lush structure.
And here’s the best part—there is really no need to spend a fortune on the rarest hybrids. I’ve seen plants for $30 each on the Plant Delights site, and I bought some for around the $20 mark, but the ones that have performed the best for me are the common Helleborus x hybridus plants I bought from Wayside years ago for maybe $6.99 each. The plants are supposed to be the same, but one is pure white and the other includes shades of light mauve and green; they’re both single. I also have several other white varieties whose names I have forgotten that are also thriving. Not so for my deep burgundy and rose doubles, which were expensive, but, at least five years on, fail to provide more than 5–6 blooms each. I’ve also seen some exotic spotted yellows, deep-veined roses, pure reds, and double everythings from breeders in England. A writer for the Financial Times recommends liquid fertilizer twice a year, but I’ve never done anything for any of mine except throw down some compost when I happen to think of it.
Bottom line: in my shady garden, especially at this time of year, the white hellebores simply look better from any vantage point, while the darker ones sort of fade into the landscape and need close-up photography to really shine.
My top advice to all shade gardeners: plant hellebores—but go for quantity, not rarity.