March's plant of the month

The holly-leaved hellebore is a Mediterranean lime green beauty, perfect for spring...

Helleborus argutifoliusSpring is a great time to get out in the garden. Having retreated indoors during the cold winter months, when you emerge from your winter hibernation there are so many plants vying for your attention with their dazzling displays of colour. Hellebores are a fantastic group of plants to provide months’ worth of colour through the spring with their delicate flowers, and many look at their best in March.

One species that is slightly different to the norm is Helleborus argutifolius which hails from the warmer climes of the Mediterranean and the stunning islands of Corsica and Sardinia. Hellebores typically grow in woodland conditions, enjoying dappled shade and moisture-retentive soil, but this hellebore is the complete opposite: it enjoys a position in full sun with well-drained soil, akin to its natural habitat on warm, rocky, Mediterranean hillsides.

Helleborus argutifolius is easy to grow and does extremely well on our Dry Garden where it tolerates our lack of irrigation. It's quite happy being baked by the sun all day on our south facing slope. This branching hellebore has large leaves and very distinct leaflets with spiny-toothed margins, and are dark glossy green, but quite leathery.

Helleborus argutifoliusIt is primarily grown for its bright lime green, saucer shaped, slightly pendant flowers which are born on large heads above the foliage, lasting until late spring. Once the flowers fade, the whole flowering head should be removed to the base of the plant, by which time new branching stems will have emerged – these produce next year’s flowers.

Growing on a stony site such as our Dry Garden this hellebore also self-seeds very readily and, although the plants are not always long lived, the seedlings will increase the longevity of the group. During the spring months this hellebore associates well with Euphorbia characias subsp. wulfenii with its lime green bracts, or as a striking contrast, try a perennial wallflower such as Erysimum ‘Bowles’ Mauve’, with its rich purple flower heads.

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