Helleborus niger ‘Christmas Rose’
French name: Rose de Noël, Hellébore
The strong winds and torrential rain that battered my garden here in France throughout the entirety of January have finally subsided and this week the sun made a very welcome reappearance.
In my garden 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’.
Helleborus niger is the earliest of the Hellebore to flower. Blooming from December 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 early emerging solitary bees and other pollinators; a touch of sweetness amongst the drabness of a somber winter garden.
This next week we are forecast to have freezing temperatures and a light covering of snow, but I’m sure these little winter wonders will continue to shine in my garden no matter what the French weather throws at them.
If you have Helleborus growing in your garden, I’d love to know, please do 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.