There may be little to see in the garden at this season, but one that you can depend on is the hellebore. This is one of those plants with green flowers as well as purple and other shades. Snowdrops are usually the first of the bulbs to show their white petals and others soon follow. I found an article by Nancy Goodwin on the Fine Gardening website in which she describes the flowers in her garden and also includes a chart which shows what blooms when.
In winter I see the shape of my garden. Paths, fences, and stone walls emerge from their summer blankets of bloom to stand alone and exposed in a landscape shorn of color. In this austere landscape, flowers are more precious to me than jewels. I?ve been searching for winter-blooming plants for years, and have discovered many that bloom in this, the coldest of seasons. Today at Montrose, my garden in Hillsborough, North Carolina, there is bloom every day of the year.
A hellebore marks the season?s startWinter begins shortly after Thanksgiving, when Helleborus vesicarius revives. I always worry about plants that go dormant and disappear in summer, so I rejoice each year at the sight of its emerging shoots. Large, shiny, dark-green leaves grow to about 5 inches above the ground, followed in January or February by up-facing, green, cup-shaped flowers with burgundy markings inside and out.I grow every species of hellebore except one, so I also have some that bloom later in the season. Depending on the species and variety, hellebore blooms begin in November and continue into April. Many self-sow, so I now have thousands naturalized in the shade of my woods. Other green-flowered hellebores that bloom in winter are H. viridis, H. odorus, H. cyclophyllus, and H. multifidus.
The best-known hellebore, the Christmas rose (H. niger), blooms for me in late November. Because I have grown many seedlings from many different sources, I have some forms of H. niger that wait until March to bloom. Flowers vary in size and shape. Some are as large as 4 inches in diameter, while others are as small as an inch and a half across. H.n. ssp. macranthus, one of my favorites, holds its darkgreen leaves well above the flowers, hiding them, but also protecting them from extreme cold.
One of my favorite Helleborus orientalis hybrids, ?Old Early Purple?, has dusky, dark-burgundy flowers visible in bud by Christmas and in bloom, usually, during January. A chance seedling of mine with pale-yellow flowers always opens a few wide-petaled blossoms just after the new year. On the wooded hillside, a dark, black-burgundy form from Elizabeth Lawrence?s garden begins to bloom in January.