Native and non-native Hellebores

about-img1Helleborus Thibetanus, part of the National Collection
of Hellebores which can be seen in Broadview Gardens
about-img1Pink Hellebore, part of the National Collection
of Hellebores, at Broadview Gardens
Helleborus viridis
Native to the British Isles, H. viridis is very widespread, with two subspecies, viridis and occidentalis. They both have twelve to twenty leaf divisions and usually have dark green flowers.

Helleborus foetidus (“Stinking Hellebore”)
Not belonging to any section Helleborus foetidus is the most widespread of the 2 British natives. It is in a section of its own, and only rarely hybridises with other species. It makes an excellent garden plant, having good architectural form, and being quite unfussy about soil or position. It is one of the few plants to thrive in dry shade.

Helleborus vesicarius
H. vesicarius differs from the rest of the genus in almost every respect. The foliage resembles a luxuriant buttercup, and dies down in summer. It has basal leaves as well as stem leaves (most have one or the other). Although the flower is similar to that of H. foetidus, the seed pod is enormous, and is probably the plant’s most striking feature.

Originally found in Sichuan Province west of Chengdu in 1869 growing at an altitude of 8000 feet in open places on north facing slopes. Seed was first sent to Britain in 1991, where several hellebore experts are growing it. The plant at Kew flowered for the first time in 1997.