Friday, February 7, 2020

Helleborus foetidus

Photos above taken in January 2018


Photos above taken in March 2018.  All photos are from my garden.

Helleborus foetidus (Stinking Hellebore) has worked exceptionally well in my dry, lightly shaded garden in Seattle.  There is moderate to fairly steep slope, so the plants are never in standing water.  A 50-foot tall Fraxinus oregana (Oregon Ash) extends sparse branches, 20 feet above ground level, over the area.  My 15 hellebores, scattered randomly, make quite a show from January through March.  The foliage is attractive all year.  The plant is called the stinking hellebore, because of the odor of its crushed leaves.  I've never noticed the odor.  It's a needlessly off-putting name.  I took seedlings no more than 5 inches tall from another garden where they were plentiful.  Those seedlings grew to their mature height (2 to 3 feet) within 3 years.  The plants continue to expand laterally as the number of stalks increase.  This is a long-lived perennial.  The stalks die after blooming & setting seed.  New stalks grow to replace them & bloom the next year.  The green or chartreuse flowers are attractive to insects, especially bees.  The leaves are dark green, but leaves, stalks & flowers are sometimes tinted red. The Wester Flisk Group of Helleborus foetidus is reliably reddish.  I suppose that my plants may be descendants of that group.  Helleborus foetidus is native to the mountainous regions of Central and Southern Europe, Greece & Turkey.