The early spring array of flowers for the garden includes the Hellebore, a perennial from Europe and Western Asia. Today the plant enjoys a spot in the American garden as well.
It was therefore no surprise that the Hellebore appeared this spring in landscape designs at the Flower and Garden Show in Hartford, Boston and Chicago.
Nineteenth century English garden periodicals as well as an early American garden book wrote about the plant and how best to grow it in the garden.
In England’s Gardeners’ Chronicle an article by Thomas Moore appeared in the April 5, 1879 issue. Moore wrote “The present paper originated in a boxful of Hellebore flowers… These being supplemented by specimens from Mr. Barr, led to a visit to Mr. Barr’s bulb grounds at Tooting, where probably is to be found the most complete collection of Hellebores which at present exists, since it contains all that can be purchased both at home and abroad, or obtained from the most likely sources by other means.”
Since it was the variety called Helleborus viridis that appeared at the Spring Flower Shows, I was most interested in Moore’s comments about that plant. Here is a photo of the plant from the Boston Show. Notice its light green flowers. [below]
Moore wrote, “Leaving Helleborus niger, the Christmas Rose, in its several forms out of the question, the only Hellebores which are of much importance for the ornamentation of flower gardens are the forms – species or varieties it matters not – which are associated together as the respective representations of H. orientalis, H. viridis, and H. foetidus.”
H. viridis, an old variety of the Hellebore, can still provide color to the early spring garden.
Philadelphia seedsman Bernard McMahon wrote in his book American Gardener, published in 1806, that the best time to transplant Helleborus viridis is in September. Since his book is based largely on English garden authors from the eighteenth century, English gardeners grew H. viridis well before 1800. Thus it has had a long garden tradition, first in the English garden and then later in the American garden.