Hellebores & Conifers Are Hard To Beat For Winter Interest

If you are looking for a sturdy perennial that will grow in shade or morning sun, look no further than Hellebores.  These perennials are tough as nails and rarely need to be divided once they are planted.  Mostly disease-free and only occasionally visited by aphids, they are easy to grow and non-demanding.  I have several clumps in my garden that were planted many years ago and other than cutting them back once a year, I do absolutely nothing special to them.  And the big bonus is that they bloom in the fall and winter.


If you don’t have a clue what a Hellebore is then perhaps the terms Christmas Rose or Lenten Rose might sound more familiar.  The Christmas Rose and all of the new hybrids start blooming as early as November and continue into the new year.  The flowers are mostly white but newer hybrids are showing some shades of pink and some also have marbled foliage.  Lenten Roses start blooming around the first of the year and continue into spring with both single and double flowers in an array of colors all the way from white to black and everything in between, except maybe blue.  They can be picotee, frilled, freckled or just solid colors and once planted rarely ever need to be divided or transplanted.  For winter interest in the garden or containers, they are unsurpassed for long lasting blooms and ease of care.  A once a year removal of last year’s foliage is all that is required along with, of course, cutting off the blooms once they have finished.  This Saturday in the nursery at 10am Sally Isaiou, from Skagit Gardens in Mt. Vernon, will share her expertise in combining hellebores with other winter interest plants to create enticing containers for winter-long interest and also share growing tips to help you succeed in your own gardens.  This is a great opportunity to hear information direct from the grower.


As for conifers, they too make fabulous winter interest plants.  Back in the last week of October I spent this entire column regaling all the attributes of these dependable evergreen plants (look for All Things Coniferous on my website at www.sunnysidenursery.net).  Considering that we live in the “Evergreen State” it should be no surprise that conifers (plants with needle-like foliage such as pines, firs and junipers) are very well adapted to our climate.  I think what gardeners sometimes forget is that conifers come in all sizes and even colors and they can anchor a garden composition together in the dead of winter when all the other vegetation has melted away.  Like Hellebores, some conifers are well suited for containers and when combined with perennials, hardy trailing groundcovers and an evergreen grass for accent make a very attractive container planting.  You can learn more about conifers this coming Saturday here at the nursery at 1pm where Trevor Cameron, CPH will share his passion for this group of plants.


Winter gardens do not have to be bare and boring.  By combining evergreen perennials, conifers and deciduous plants that have attractive bark or branching patterns we can continue to enjoy our gardens throughout the winter months.  Come learn all about this on Saturday.