There is little point in asking a question when the answer is staring you in the face, but I am going to do so all the same. What perennial is in full flower before the snowdrops and other early Spring bulbs appear and is still blooming almost up to the time when your roses open their buds? The answer is, of course, the hellebore which is the subject of this article by Victor Carrano which I found over on Dave’s Garden website.
How about a perennial that can start blooming before your earliest spring bulbs, continue flowering until your roses are almost ready and has great looking, deer resistant foliage for the rest of the year? Welcome to the world of hellebores!Primarily native to Europe, hellebores are easy to care for and should appeal to both new and seasoned gardeners. They thrive in shade to partial shade and prefer a moist, but well-drained soil with sufficient organic matter. In this respect, hellebores are ideal woodland plants. You should not allow more than a few hours of direct morning sun or a sustained dry period.
Some of the common names for hellebores are Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) and Lenten rose (H. orientalis). These names are more useful in describing the approximate bloom time, as the plants are not in the rose family (Rosaceae), but in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). In my years of growing them, I have never noted any resemblance whatsoever to rose blooms!
Barry Glick, hellebore hybridizer of Sunshine Farm and Gardens in Renick, WV, recommends a soil pH between 5.5 and 7.0 and describes the plants as ‘greedy feeders’. He likes to use timed-release fertilizers at the high end of the prescribed application range. I have gone years without fertilizing them at all however, and mine have done just fine, though my soil may be more fertile than the average.