While most of our landscape plants slumber through the winter there are a few who thrive in the cold season and come into their own during these months. Hellebores and Heuchera are two excellent perennials for northwest winter gardens and look fantastic when used in containers or planted in the ground. Both are considered perennial but stay evergreen rather than sleeping below the soil with the other plants.
Heuchera commonly referred to as Coral Bells are prized for their bold colorful leaves which range from pale green or chartreuse to almost black. With names like ‘Fire Alarm’, ‘Green Spice’, and ‘Obsidian’ they look great when combined with other evergreens and primroses or winter pansies. Many cultivars add to their beauty with delicate blooms in shades of pink and cream that are also attractive to hummingbirds. Ideal growing conditions range from sun (avoid reflective heat) to shade depending on the cultivar and average soil moisture is best.
Hellebores are often called Winter Rose or Christmas Rose because of the flowers’ similar appearance. They are classic winter-bloomers with the earliest flowers appearing in December and the latest finishing in early to mid-April.
Hellebores thrive in filtered sunlight or partial shade and are tolerant of a range of conditions, but do not like soggy-wet soil; they do well when planted underneath deciduous trees and are an invaluable addition to the shade garden. Bloom colors depend on the cultivar, but tend to be mainly pastel shades with occasional dark colors in reds and purples. Each flower lasts for several weeks and often goes through subtle color changes as it matures; plump seeds eventually develop in the center and often self-sow in the garden creating a mass of plants over time.
Hellebore cultivars have names such as ‘Winter Jewels’, ‘Gold Collection’ and ‘Winter Thriller’ which allude to their elevated status as one of the few true flowers of winter. Many gardeners have a habit of pruning off old foliage just as the Hellebore buds begin to appear; this helps freshen the appearance of the plant while also showing off the beautiful flowers.
Our garden centers are well-stocked with these lovely plants just waiting for you to come take one home; if your garden or landscape is lacking some ‘Green Spice’ and you want to add some ‘Winter Jewels’ stop in soon for best selection.