Native to the mountainous regions of Europe, Greece and Asia Minor, Helleborus niger is a member of the Ranunculaceae, or buttercup family. It has pure white blossoms which bloom at Christmas time in the northern hemisphere, hence the common name Christmas Rose. Niger, the species name, means black, and refers to its dark coloured roots.
Common name: Hellebore, or Christmas Rose
Botanical name: Helleborus niger
Description: Evergreen plant to about 30cm (12") tall with leathery dark green leaves, black roots and large white pendant flowers in winter. They are propagated from seed or by division.
Best climate: Helleborus niger is more difficult to grow than other hellebores, requiring colder conditions. It is best suited to cool, elevated regions of southern Australia from Sydney to Perth and south.
Hellebores are ideal for planting in drifts under trees, in terraced gardens or in pots Good cut flowers if picked when mature (immature flowers will wilt in a vase) Excellent in float bowls. They last for weeks slowly fading and changing colour
Naturalise readily Attractive white flowers in winter when gardens often look bare Long flowering
Flowers hang down and cannot be appreciated when viewed from above All parts of the plant are toxic: bruised foliage can cause severe dermatitis
Care and maintenance:
Hellebores prefer a shady, moist situation in alkaline soil, and often grow best under deciduous trees. At planting time incorporate plenty of compost into the soil and keep well mulched. Water well, particularly during summer. Remove dead foliage and flowers, but otherwise do not prune.
A Special Hellebore Weekend will be held 28 and 29 August, 10am-3pm at Corroboree Park Hall, Paterson Street, Ainslie, ACT. Helleborus niger is available from many nurseries but if you have difficulty you may like to try:
The Greenery Heidelberg, Heidelberg, VIC, phone: (03) 9459 8433
Albert’s Garden, 9 Beltana Road, Pialligo, ACT, phone: (02) 6248 0300
Swane’s Garden Centre, Dural, NSW, phone: (02) 9651 1322
Merry Garth, Mount Wilson, NSW, phone: (02) 4756 2121
Everbloom Nursery, Perth, WA, phone: (08) 9295 1666
Newman’s Nursery & Topiary Tea House, Tea Tree Gully, SA, phone: (08) 8264 2661