Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’
French name: Rose de Noël, Hellébore
This last week the sun finally appeared, temperatures rose above freezing and the thaw got underway. By Wednesday the garden had re-appeared from the blanket of snow which has enveloped it for the past three weeks.
Evergreens are looking forlorn, the ground is a quagmire, and yet there are certain stars which continue to shine no matter what a French winter throws at them and one of these is Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’ my flower of February.
Helleborus niger is the earliest of the Hellebore to flower. Blooming from January to April the elegant waxy white flowers, often tinged with pink, and centered with golden-yellow stamen hold their heads high in brazen defiance of winter.
Helleborus niger is best planted in partial shade, in fertile, alkaline to neutral ground which is rich in humus to feed their deep root system.
In our garden I have clumps planted under our deciduous Tilia cordata (Lime) tree where they benefit from the warmth of the winter sun shining through its bare branches, yet are shaded by its dense canopy during the hottest months of summer.
This year I have plans to plant some Helleborus niger beneath my Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ where their pure white flowers would contrast beautifully against the blazing red stems of the winter Cornus.
Helleborus niger is a slow grower, but flowering as it does throughout the coldest months of a French winter makes it not only a beautiful flower to admire whilst most others are cowering underground but also a mecca for emerging solitary bees; a touch of sweetness amongst the drabness of a somber winter garden.
Alas, overnight the snow came back, not a thick coat but enough to thwart all plans to spend the weekend in the garden. Happily though it was my birthday on Thursday and having been sent Sarah Raven gift vouchers by my Mother and Sister in Law I can at least spend the day ordering this year’s flower and vegetable seeds in readiness for when the snow does finally disappear for good and this French winter ends.
I’d love to hear about your favourite February flowers, so please leave your comments in the box below.
The legend of the Christmas Rose
As Madelon tended to her sheep one cold and wintry night, a group of Wise Men and shepherds passed by Madelon’s snow-covered field bearing gifts for the Christ Child. Following, Madelon saw the Magi present gold, myrrh and frankincense to the baby…even the humble shepherds had brought fruits, honey and doves to give to the babe…but Madelon had nothing, not even a simple flower for the Newborn King. Standing outside the stable where Jesus had been born, poor Madelon wept, wishing that she had a gift she could carry to the infant. A watching Angel, taking pity on Madelon, caused the snow at the feet of the small girl feet to vanish, thus revealing a most beautiful white flower whose petals were tipped with pink, formed by the Angel from the tears which had fallen from the eyes of the little shepherdess. Overjoyed, Madelon presented her gift at the manger of the baby Jesus…her gift of the Christmas Rose.