I was always cool towards Hellebores orientalis, lenten rose, in the garden but my wife Angela has gradually won me over to their considerable charm. As a rule, plants that bloom in the cooler months (camellias, pansies, and even paper bush) only make me yearn for spring.
Over time I have come to appreciate the understated beauty and toughness of Lenten rose.
There are many named varieties of Hellebores and if you are the collecting type, the abundance of different available forms and colors may even rival the hostas. Like rare or new hostas, recent lenten rose introductions can by expensive. People especially seem to love the super dark lenten roses, but truthfully, the lighter colored blooms of your plain old garden variety lenten rose show in the landscape better.
Growing lenten rose in the garden is easy and relatively care-free
Lenten roses are considered evergreen but in the southern garden Hellebores orientalis is border-line ephemeral, generally receding into the landscape as summer comes into its own. I tend to tuck lenten rose here and there in the garden and generally forget them during the warmer months. Shade is a requirement, but supplemental watering is not necessary; rainfall will suffice. Hardiness is USDA zones 4-9.
The flowers are droopy affairs, tending to point at the ground. I find it particularly difficult to photograph lenten roses adequately due to this issue…if there is a situation that calls for me to be sprawled awkwardly in the garden with a camera it is a sure bet the lenten roses are in bloom.
Lenten roses are so-named because they tend to bloom during Lent, the six week period before Easter. They bloom much earlier in the Deep South.