Hello, Hellebores

I always think of Hellebores as a frosty New Year’s Eve sort of flower, blooming just as the world has become a little too grey for too long. Alas, because of this, I also associate them with hellish New Years Day hangovers and emergency trips to McDonald’s Drive Thru which, let’s face it, isn’t quite the romantic effect I was hoping for.

Flowering in late winter and on into early spring, I’m starting to think that no garden can be complete without them. And as my garden is far from complete, it’s time to pop some in.

Hellebores are a part-time gardener’s dream. Easy to plant and easy to look after, their plants grow larger (and more prolific) year on year, with very little maintenance needed. And best of all… they prefer to be planted in dappled shade. Which is lucky, because 60% of my new garden falls into that category.

There are hundreds of varieties to choose from. I’ve opted for a ‘Cinderella’ hybrid variety (above) and a dark purple Lenten Rose (below). The Lenten’s are getting on a little (I may have left them on the doorstop for a little too long), so have dropped their yellow anthers, but they’re still going strong.

I’ve planted mine at the base of our lovely old silver birch. I’ll be able to see them from the window come Christmas, and they’ll start to fill the rather barren bed I’ve created there.

To plant:

  • Hellebores like rich, well drained soil, so make sure that you turn over the soil and dig in some rich organic material, such as leaf mulch or chipped bark (well rotted manure would work too).
  • Dig a hole a little bigger than the pot your Hellebores come in, tip out and loosen the roots a little, then plant and pat the soil around them firmly.

Hellebores will be very pleased if you water them during dry spells, and positively elated if you mulch them every autumn (with leaf mould, chipped bark, etc.)

Unlike me, Hellebore flowers are subtle in nature, so it’s worth cutting back dead and large leaves in late spring/ early winter to give them some room. It would be a shame not to see them. This will also help to protect them from a nasty sounding disease called ‘Hellebore Leaf Spot.’

Go forth and Hellebore.

How To Grow Snowdrops

Nature can be a cruel mistress. 99% of the time, when you see a flower growing in the sunshine – a blowsy great tulip, say, or flawless peony – the ideal time to plant them has already passed. Months prior, in the cool of autumn.

Not so the snowdrop, gawd bless it.

As most hardened gardeners will tell you, growing snowdrops from bulbs is hit and miss at best, downright rage-inducing the rest of the time. The true way to guarantee swathes of delicate snowdrops at home in your own garden is to grow them “in the green.” A poetically horticultural way of saying “plants, instead of bulbs,” waiting until the flowers are just going over before planting them.

And that means… you haven’t missed your chance to plant snowdrops this year. Buy them from your local nursery or order them online right now, and you’ll be ready to plant them out just as soon as these frosts are over.

Tim found 3 wraps of snowdrops in the market last weekend and brought them back for me with the Saturday papers. Arriving in damp newspaper with pretty-much-bare roots I potted them up in some moist rich soil from under a tree in our garden. I now get to enjoy my snowdrops twice over – sat safely inside on my kitchen table while they flower, then again this time next year when they flower in their new home.


  • Snowdrops like part shade (they’re forest flowers at heart) so I’ll be planting mine around the trunk of a tree in our front garden.
  • Damp, rich soil is the order of the day. Dig in leaf mulch or compost when planting if your soil could do with a boost.
  • Divide your plants into clumps of 3-4 bulbs before planting.
  • Plant each clump about 6 inches apart so that they have room to spread out and make themselves at home.
  • Existing plants can be lifted and divided again in late March/ early April to encourage an enormous great carpet of these late winter lovelies.