Hellebores are commonly known as the Lenten Rose or depending on the variety and time of flowering the Christmas Rose. Despite the fact that these plants are not members of the rose family they are both attractive and useful specimens that provide flowers at a time of the year when little else is in bloom. Interestingly hellebores are also mentioned as useful for covering the leaves of daffodils while they die back. This information comes from an article by Melody Rose which I found over on Dave’s Garden website.
Hellebores are a beautiful late winter or early spring treat.Hellebores, sometimes called the Lenten Rose are a great choice to add to your early spring garden. They pair well with daffodils and the evergreen foliage works well to hide the yellowing leaves of the daffodils once they have finished blooming. The flowers last a long time and are happiest in the shady border. Even though the common name indicates they are connected to roses, hellebores have more in common with buttercups, since they are both from the Ranunculaceae family.
These plants are native to Eurasia, however, it is suspected that the Roman army was responsible for spreading them throughout the Europe. Most likely the plant was used medicinally as a purgative, however it is quite toxic, so could have been kept as an assassin’s tool. In fact, there is a well-known incident where the Greeks (who were also well aware of hellebore’s properties) crushed many plants and poisoned the drinking water source for the town of Kirrha in the 5th Century B.C.. This made the people inside so ill that the Greeks successfully took the town. It is also suspected that hellebore was the poison that killed Alexander the Great. As toxic as this plant is, there are very few incidents where people or pets are harmed. Hellebores are so foul-tasting that even the tiniest nibble is loathsome. It is still a good idea to see a doctor or veterinarian if child or pet does take a taste just to be sure. On the up-side, Bambi doesn’t like the taste either and hellebores make a good choice for gardeners who are plagued by grazing deer.
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