Helleborus x ericsmithii (Lenten Rose)
When it comes to hellebores, I’m surprisingly hard to please. Some of the quieter varieties are too shy at a time of year when I want crisp, clean colours to draw me out into the garden on a dismal day; yet some of the modern hybrids seem vulgar and lack the original charm and elegance of the original plant.
Helleborous x ericsmithii however is a thing of beauty…. a really classy plant. It has a polished look about it, and manages to combine the best of both old and new varieties. Sprays of large white flowers, often 10cm wide, are tinged with pink, and held proudly above the slightly serrated, dark green leaves. A silvery lustre appears along the veins of the tidy foliage, and is particularly pronounced on new growth. There are many named selections, all of which are good.
Hellebores like good drainage and sunny sites. Tatty leaves can be cut out, and indeed should be, to prevent them rotting off and spreading disease. It’s such a neat plant that it looks good in a container, or at the front of a border, particularly near a door in winter.
Try growing this lenten rose with hostas, ferns and other foliage plants. A good association might be with a pieris such as pieris japonica ‘prelude’, the hellebore picking out the pinky tones of the pieris’s new leaves and white bell-shaped flowers. Or an epimedium with pink-tinged leaves would make pretty groundcover at it’s feet.
And x ericsmithii? Yes, it’s simply named after the early twentieth century plant breeder who created it….. and I for one rather like the incongruity of such a beautiful plant having such a ‘blokes’ name!