April 17, 2014

Spring Beautiful, Lenten Roses

Is there anything more seasonally refreshing than the first vivid green shoot poking up through the tired, brown winter soil?  It gives us a feeling of hope & vitality for another year to come.  Spring bulbs, crocus, daffodils, hyacinths, answer this longing.  But there is another, lesser known perennial called Lenten roses (Helleborus orientalis) that also rejuvenate the winter weary soul.

Lenten roses, also known as Hellebores, get their nickname for their growing season.  The green stems first emerge in late winter putting on a colorful riot of drooping bell-shaped blooms usually in early April during Lent.  I planted my first hellebore three years ago and they have proven to be a yearly favorite.
The flowers range from burgundy & pinks to pale yellow-greens.  After flowering, the green foliage stays throughout the summer & fall providing a lush green backdrop for other summer perennials or colorful annuals.  I have found that I get a better, stronger color if I apply a slow-release balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) lightly as they first sprout and then again in the fall.  Lenten roses prefer light shade and well-drained soil.  Their range is Lower to Upper South and into the mountains of West Virginia (U.S.).  Flowers will begin to fade to pastel shades as seeds form.  Once the seeds have dropped, more green shoots will appear.  These can be transplanted and shared with friends in the fall.
I planted three Lenten roses on my cat, Sweetboy, grave 3 years ago.  There are now at least 15 plants there.  I need to divide them but they are so beautiful, clumped and full.  We see them every time we look out the back door.

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